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The Boxtrolls (Review)

 

"The Boxtrolls represents the stop-motion subgenre of films well because of the fact that it's uncompromising in its humor, animation, visuals, and color palette, and even goes on to be hilarious in a self-referential way..."

 

by Steve Pulaski

The Boxtrolls is a stop-motion animation film, meaning one finds themselves too busy admiring the artfully-done claymation to really pay a great deal of attention to the story at hand. When one comes down from the grim gorgeousness of the animation, they are greeted with a story that, while well-told and frequently humorous, is sort of confused in what audience it wants to attract. It frequently mixes with the kind of dark world Tim Burton finds himself toying with, but does so in a way not as welcoming. Rather than emphasizing on the whimsy and the character motivations, The Boxtrolls operates with a grotesque look and attitude, almost effectively alienating the audience that most animated films tend to try and absorb.

The Boxtrolls
Directed by Graham Annable & Anthony Stacchi
Cast Elle Fanning, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Ben Kingsley
Release Date 26 September 2014
Steve's Grade: B

For starters, the story is fairly simple, concerning a young, orphaned human boy named "Eggs" (voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Wright), who has grown up raised by subterranean, cave-dwelling, trash-collectors known as "Boxtrolls," billed by that name because of the boxes that make up their torso. Eggs and the Boxtrolls find themselves in grave trouble when a pest exterminator named Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) is called in to rid the town of the Boxtrolls, with growing unrest from the townspeople about the alleged harm and behavior of the creatures, leaving Eggs to fight for the only family he has ever really come to know. He teams up with his first human friend Winnie (Elle Fanning) to try and combat the lies spread by Snatcher.

Returning to the point of where The Boxtrolls focus lies, the film is much more concerned, so it seems, with building a look of ugliness and surrealist visuals than to waste time grubbing the same audience who wanted the happy-go-lucky spirit of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 and The LEGO Movie. Much like other Laika, the studio that brought you Coraline and ParaNorman, films, The Boxtrolls operates with macabre humor and visuals, both of which equally haunting but simultaneously fun and gleefully grim. These kinds of films tend to take a longer time to find their respective audience, either artistic teenagers or offbeat youngsters, but when they do, they have developed loyal fans for life.

The issue that arises from this is that The Boxtrolls can sometimes get so dark that we wonder how younger children, or even those aforementioned "offbeat" tweens, will respond to the film. At times, the film gets a bit too silly or superfluous for adults too, not always necessarily catering to them. The audience of the film definitely finds itself catered to at different times, but the end product finds ways to provide fun for each age demographic, even in an inconsistent manner.

There will be the class of people who look to obsess over The Boxtrolls and the other who look to appreciate it, and I am fittingly placed in the latter. This is a nice change of pace for the absolutely bland releases we've gotten this past September, despite the variety of films we've seen. The Boxtrolls represents the stop-motion subgenre of films well because of the fact that it's uncompromising in its humor, animation, visuals, and color palette, and even goes on to be hilarious in a self-referential way, if one makes the choice to stay part way through the end credits.

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