IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 97 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
The town of Cheesebridge has deemed the Boxtrolls, underground creatures who roam the streets at night finding anything they can to make into useful devices, a menace and a scourge, so its head Lord Portly Rind, who along with his fellow white hatted aristocrats cares more about cheese then the welfare of the citizenry, employs the Red Hats, a team of brutal goons led by Archibald Snatcher, to rid the town of them, not knowing that Archibald wants to climb the social hierarchy and swap his red hat for a white one. However, one night the Lord’s daughter Winnie sees a strange boy called Eggs, who lives with the Boxtrolls, and realises that the Boxtrolls may not be the bad guys after all….
After their Coraline and especially their Paranorman, easily the best animated film of 2012, I looked forward to the next film from stop-motion geniuses Laika with great anticipation. They seemed to have carved their own niche in the over-populated animated movie genre with their unique look, mature themes, dark feel and a refusal to fall into the trap of easy slapstick [though humour still remains] and pop culture references which is common with this genre. The Boxtrolls isn’t really up there with Paranorman, but is another treat that adults should enjoy along with their kids, though this one is even creepier in places, especially with the early scenes as well as the distinctly grotesque look to some of the characters [some of which have Burtonesque spindly legs], though we should all know that most kids love gross visuals like maggots being eaten and a character who balloons horribly when he eats cheese. The film’s chief message of tolerance is handled in quite a complex fashion – the Boxtrolls are ugly, eat bugs and live in a skanky place, but that’s the point, that there are different ways of life and even if other way of life looks weird to you, that doesn’t excuse genocide – and other themes , such as class, the possibility of change, and the positiveness of being ‘Green’, are effectively transmitted without beating you over the head.
The steam punk setting is superbly evoked with fantastic attention to detail, and the title characters, who sound a bit like Critters and are perhaps influenced by Despicable Me’s Minions, quickly rather endearing despite their ugliness. Characterisation is mostly strong, though you can tell where much of the story is going after a while, and, while the stop-motion sometimes reaches new heights of technical brilliance, especially during an elaborate dance sequence, while still retaining as Aardmann-style hand-made vibe, some of the action is a bit blurry and has too many close-ups. Whether the former is due to the techniques used or it being filmed in 3D [which, as usual, I didn’t bother with] I’m not sure. Very Terry Gilliam-influenced [and Eric Idle wrote a song for it too to go along with Dario Marionelli’s superb score], and acted with relish by its voice cast [though as usual Richard Ayaode almost steals the show], this never becomes quite as good as you want, but still stands out in what hasn’t been too good a year for animated movies so far [though The Book Of Life is nearly here!] and is another intelligent, yet still entertaining, animated fantasy with some depth from this studio.