Director: Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable
Cast: Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Jared Harris, Toni Collette, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Simon Pegg
Release Date: September 26th, 2014
Its warm-hearted premise is brought to the big screen with gorgeous animation that make the title characters feel real and genuine. Based on Alan Snow’s children’s novel Here be Monsters, it is the rare animated film that could easily live on for generations.
Eggs (voiced by Game of Thrones’ Isaac Hempstead Wright) is the main character here, a kid who was adopted as a young boy by the boxtrolls and always believed he was one of them. Boxtrolls are the troll-like creatures that live in the sewers and have boxes festooned onto their bodies (hence their name). Despite their reputation by the public as being sick “rodent-like” creatures, they are actually lovable but shy creatures who want nothing more than to live in peace with the humans.
The humans want nothing to do with them. In fact they want the boxtrolls exterminated from the town “Kill the boxtrolls,” is a common refrain downtown when the vicious Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kingsley), dressed as a female singer, tells the crowd about how evil the boxtrolls actually are.
Snatcher, using suppositions and lies, has convinced the townspeople that the boxtrolls are responsible for the death of a local boy years earlier.
The boxtrolls, who live in the sewer beneath the town, are actually uniquely wonderful creatures that speak in a language most people don’t understand but that Eggs does. Eggs has lived with them his whole life and knows who they really are. He eventually realizes with the help of a selfish young girl named Winnie (voiced by Elle Fanning) that he isn’t an actual boxtroll (In some ways, Eggs’ story is similar to Tarzan’s in that they both grew up in foreign environments and thrived there with the help of a nurturing support group of outsiders.)
What makes The Boxtrolls magical as a feature are some of the little details added here that enliven the story. The villainous character Snatcher though devious and cruel, is hilarious in his ineptitude. He wants to be a rich man and longs to don a white hat, a sign of privilege and respect in this world. The rich consume cheese voraciously and Snatcher loves the tasty treat despite his obvious allergy to it. Of course, none of his minions are willing to point out the obvious to him (cheese, while a tasty treat, is making Snatcher sick).
The feature also offers a sarcastic look at the needlessly wealthy residents of this community, especially the snobbish Lord Portley-Rind (voiced by Jared Harris). When he wastes the community’s money on building a huge piece of cheese and that cheese is eventually destroyed, he shrugs, “We might as well have built a children’s hospital.” It’s that cunning sense of humor here that should keep parents laughing and enjoying the feature along with their kids.
Above all, though, this film’s success belongs to the animation team that brought the boxtrolls to life in such vivid fashion. These characters make this movie and their uniqueness stands out in a summer lacking distinct animated characters.
The Boxtrolls, which may be a hard sell to moviegoers, is truly worth your time and money. It’s a refreshing, imaginative and unique movie that hopefully will get the following it deserves.
Review by: John Hanlon