The 400-Word-Review: The Boxtrolls
By Sean Collier
September 29, 2014
The Boxtrolls is a charming, artful film. A shame, then, that it’s targeted at an audience that does not exist.
The stop-motion animated project from Coraline and ParaNorman studio Laika tells a lovely story about protagonists and narrative — richer material than one might expect. A young boy, Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), is raised by a colony of harmless beasties that live in the sewers; when he comes of age, he’s shocked to learn that the humans believe his family to be savage, baby-eating monsters.
The cultural elite of the fictional (and yet super-British) town are concerned with little other than eating cheese and maintaining status, so they fail to notice that social climber Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) has created the Boxtroll threat out of whole cloth. As Snatcher desperately tries to round up the monsters and thus gain admittance to the cheese-eaters (despite his own lactose intolerance,) Eggs and aboveground compatriot Winnie (Elle Fanning) try to convince the townspeople of the truth.
It’s a layered story, loaded with societal commentary. The visual world of the film also is remarkable; like Laika’s previous efforts, humor can be drawn simply from the composition and interplay of backgrounds and objects. A loaded voice cast (also including Toni Colette, Jared Harris, Simon Pegg, Tracy Morgan, Richard Ayoade, Nick Frost and others) is fully committed.
But the audience that The Boxtrolls is after probably shouldn’t see it — and those who should won’t. Despite a PG rating, the film is far too troubling for younger kids. It’s not simply a matter of creepiness; without spoiling anything, the story makes some late turns that younger children won’t be able to handle. Its violence is silly, but in no way dismissible.
So the ideal audience, without a doubt, is youths in that 12-16 range — who are largely trying to sneak into R-rated movies, not appreciating the narrative subtleties of a fine animated film. Forgive me for a dismissive attitude towards our nation’s young teens, but I used to be one. I didn’t want to see kid’s fare anymore (and while The Boxtrolls is more of a teens-to-adults endeavor, it looks like something for all ages).
Those are marketing problems, though; whether or not anyone ends up seeing it, The Boxtrolls is a lovely piece of art. Hopefully it can find an audience among grown-ups with a love of animation and weirdness. Fortunately, that’s a growing demographic.
My Rating: 8/10