Thursday, September 11, 2014

Movie Review: The Boxtrolls (2014)


From IMDB:


A young orphaned boy raised by underground cave-dwelling trash collectors tries to save his friends from an evil exterminator. Based on the children's novel 'Here Be Monsters' by Alan Snow.- Ratings: 6.6/10 from 213 users Metascore: 51/100 | Reviews: 2 user | 17 critic | 6 from

From Rotten Tomatoes:

Movie Info

A family event movie from the creators of "Coraline" and "ParaNorman" that introduces audiences to a new breed of family - The Boxtrolls, a community of quirky, mischievous creatures who have lovingly raised an orphaned human boy named Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Wright) in the amazing cavernous home they've built beneath the streets of Cheesebridge. When the town's villain, Archibald Snatcher (Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley), comes up with a plot to get rid of the Boxtrolls, Eggs decides to venture above ground, "into the light," where he meets and teams up with fabulously feisty Winnifred (Elle Fanning). Together, they devise a daring plan to save Eggs' family. Directors: Anthony Staachi and Graham Annable. (C) Focus - Average Rating: 7.7/10 User Ratings: 17,861

This is Eggs, he has absolutely no problems being raised underground by trolls. ©Focus

What this Upper-Worlder Thinks... (SPOILERS!! DUH.... Skip to the end if you don't want to see spoilers!)

So, The Boxtrolls, let's begin with the basics. The Boxtrolls is based on the novel Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow who not only wrote it but also did over 500 black and white illustrations for it as well. The book was published in 2005 in the UK and in the US the following year. Made by the creators of Coraline, which was entertaining, and ParaNorman, which was a fun little movie, The Boxtrolls seems, from the trailer at least, going to be just as quirky and fun as they were.

The film, The Boxtrolls, tells the story of Eggs a human boy adopted by a group of underground dwelling trolls who dress in boxes. These trolls live in an incredible cavern right beneath the town of Cheesebridge. The people of Cheesebridge live in fear of the Boxtrolls ever since that day that Baby Trubshaw was believed to be taken by the Boxtrolls in the dead of night. Ever since then, come night fall the town of Cheesebridge becomes completely deserted as a curfew takes place and the people of Cheesebridge hide in their homes.

Eggs grows up tinkering and making music. I wished i did this growing up. ©Focus

This curfew of course is perfect for the Boxtrolls as it means that they can roam the streets and alleys searching through bins and boxes for clocks, gears and other bits of machines that the folks of Cheesebridge throw away. The Boxtrolls you see are sort of tinkerers and engineers, they love to put things together, making new things out of the things that others throw away.

But the evening curfew isn't entire peaceful, while the Boxtrolls look for things to bring back to their cavern, Archibald Snatcher and his goons roam the streets looking for them. Snatcher you see is hunting them down for a reason, he's made a deal with Lord Portley-Rind the head of the White Hats a very small group of elites who run the town of Cheesebridge. The deal? If he catches all of the Boxtrolls, Lord Portley-Rind has to make him one of the White Hats.

 This is exactly the way I look when the alarm goes off and when it doesn't. ©Focus

This of course means that every night the Boxtrolls goes out scavenging a few of them are caught by Snatcher. Years pass and Eggs who is raised by the Boxtrolls becomes old enough to go out scavenging with the other Boxtrolls and each time he sees more of his adopted family get snatched up by Snatcher. Up until one night when while trying to make his escape from Snatcher he encounters Winnie. And this changes everything, this is the first time that Eggs has seen a human being. The same evening that he sees Winnie he also loses his best friend Fish when Fish is captured by Snatcher.

Determined to find Fish, Eggs decides to go up to the town during the day. Dressing in what he thinks other people dress in based on an old record cover he has, he goes exploring. Up top it just happens to be the anniversary of the Trubshaw baby kidnapping and there's a big show by Mrs Frou Frou who re-enacts the event in her stage show with the help of Winnie acting as Baby Trubshaw. The show ends with Eggs fuming at the accusations against the Boxtrolls, he spots Winnie making her through the town and follows her. He thinks that she can help him. She tells him where he can find Snatcher.

Meet Snatcher, evil exterminator/villain by night and cross-dressing cabaret performer by day.     ©Focus

So off Eggs goes in search of Snatcher and find him he does. He also finds Fish as well as the other Boxtrolls that Snatcher has captured working in a hidden underground workshop. Snatcher and his goons spot them and give chase but just then Winnie shows up throwing another fly in Snatcher's plans. So Eggs does the only thing he can think of and takes Winnie with him back to the cavern to hide.

Back in the cavern Winnie learns the truth about the Boxtrolls, that they're not the face-ripping, blood-thirsty, baby-eating monsters that she's been told about all her life. She finds out that they're incredibly shy and timid creatures who are extremely fond and protective of Eggs. And when Eggs asks her to help him stop Snatcher and help him change the way the people up top think about the Boxtrolls, she's more that willing to help. But to do it, Eggs needs to look like a normal boy.

This is Eggs all grown up. They make boxes out of amazing things in Cheesebridge. ©Focus

Well Winnie dresses him up like a boy and gives him a few pointers about how to behave at a party. Eggs of course tries his best and to hilarious results. But it doesn't go well at all. Mistakes are made and Lord Portley-Rind banishes him from the party and his home. So Eggs slinks off home back to the cavern.

Back at the cavern Eggs pleads with the Boxtrolls to leave the cavern and find another place to hide. But it's a case of too little too late, Snatcher digs his way into the cavern and snatches up everyone including Eggs. He takes all of them back to his hide out and tells him of his plans. Once that's done he places all the Boxtrolls under a huge press and proceeds to crush all of the Boxtrolls. He has other plans for Eggs.

These are Snatcher's goons or stooges as he calls them. Two of them are pretty smart, try to guess which two. ©Focus

The next day he goes up to the home of Lord Portley-Rind. He's dressed Eggs in a Boxtroll outfit and once in front of Lord Portley-Rind proclaims that he has caught all the Boxtrolls and crushed all of them except of Eggs. Snatcher plans to kill Eggs in front of Lord Portley-Rind as proof that he has killed all of them just as he promised he would do in exchange for Lord Portley-Rind making him one of the White Hats. Of course you can guess that this doesn't go as plan for Snatcher and he is defeated in the end and everyone lives happily ever after.

This is Eggs all cleaned up and dressed in an outfit cobbled together from scraps. ©Focus

To box it all up...

The Boxtrolls is a very, very entertaining movie. It starts a little slow but if you're patient it pays off. Visually the movie is beautiful. Made using the very, very time consuming method of stop motion, the sets and background have incredible detail and the characters move fluidly. The scenes are shot beautifully that sometimes you wonder how they did it.

The characters take a while for you to warm up to them and I think the reason for it is in their appearance. Almost all the characters aren't immediately cute or adorable or attractive. There is a grotesqueness to their physical and facial appearance. This includes the Boxtrolls. They look, well, like trolls. And they have a somewhat gruff but silly way of speaking. The only character that is adorable from the get go is our hero Eggs, but he spends most of his time covered in soot and dirt and dressed in drabby outfits.

This is Shoe, he's enjoying a very buggy snack. Isn't he cute! ©Focus

The humour in this film is distinctly British in nature, so be prepared not to have the same sort of laughs you'd usually get from a Pixar or Disney movie, don't expect Minion-like silliness or Madagascar-like slapstick comedy from the Penguins. I'm not saying it's not there, I'm saying it's subtle, different but entirely entertaining.

So ultimately what I'm saying is that The Boxtrolls was a lovely surprise, a thoroughly entertaining movie with endearing characters that you'll learn to love as the film progresses. If you've got kids, take them to watch this movie. If you don't have kids go and see it anyway because it's fun. Also stay for the credits, you'll be rewarded with a neat look at how stop-motion animation is done all the while one of the goons has an existential moment. It's really cool and silly at the same time.

I give this movie a very solidly entertaining 4 out of 5.



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