Laika Studios has a strong fan-base thanks to Coraline and Paranorman. Unfortunately, while The Boxtrolls definitely has some very strong elements in it, the final product is overall underwhelming, especially when compared to those previous works that made the studio famous in the first place.
The animation style might be the strongest point of the film.
Filmed using stop-motion, which in itself has become rare in the mainstream, the main reason why it’s so compelling aesthetically is because the figures have extremely exaggerated features, making it possible to see the materials used in creating the characters. And the one that caught my attention most was villain Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kingsley) with the different crayon lines all over his face, making him perfectly distinguishable.
Of course, this is a double-edged sword, since the designs are not only beautiful to look, they’re also a little distracting. Again, the Boxtrolls were particularly well-made — they were aligned with the aesthetics of the rest of the characters — a little weird and dark — and they just looked adorable and cool.
The story, however, is very simple, and the movie gets a little boring at some points for being overlong.
Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead Wright), is a young boy raised by the titular Boxtrolls. When Snatcher captures one of them during a rummage run, Eggs goes to rescue his friend, but the truth of who Eggs really is will determine the fate of the Boxtrolls.
In the end, Eggs isn’t very memorable at all, while Snatcher is a real menace to the Boxtrolls — it even gets to a point when we believe he might actually kill them. The fact that Eggs saves the little creatures seems to be the only reason he’s in the movie, besides being, of course, relatable. Snatcher’s obsession with cheese while being allergic — his quest to kill the Boxtrolls will get him membership into the White Hats, a cheese-loving council — is more weird than it is funny, and this kind of humor makes it clear that the movie is targeted to very small children young enough to laugh at grotesque images without really connecting it to the main plot.
The whole witch-hunt made against the Boxtrolls is by far and away the most interesting aspect of the screenplay, but it would have needed to be a little more extreme in order to make a really compelling story. All in all, there was nothing downright bad with the movie, but the script is so unimpressive that even with a beautiful animation style, I don’t think it has any chance of getting the Oscar statuette.
The Boxtrolls (2014)
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Directed by: Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
Written by: Irena Brignull, Adam Pava, and Alan Snow
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, and Nick Frost