Wednesday, February 11, 2015
The Boxtrolls (2014)
The people of the town of Cheesebridge have long lived in fear of the trolls who dwell beneath their feet. Legend has it that ten years ago the creatures kidnapped and ate a human baby, dragging him down to the sewers below. In reality though the Boxtrolls are no monsters, but lovable, intelligent beings who wouldn't hurt a fly (although they do eat other insects). The boy they "snatched" is in fact alive and well having been raised as a Boxtroll. However when a dastardly exterminator starts kidnapping trolls, the boy (now known as Eggs) must venture to the world above to try and find out what happened to them.
LAIKA have pushed forward the art of stop-motion with every successive film- and Boxtrolls is no exception. It's easily their most technically accomplished film to date. The artistry on display here is nothing short of gob-smacking, with the model-making and production design here among the best you'll see in stop-motion anywhere in the world. Extensive and ground-breaking use of 3D printing tech means their models have a level of polish that could even be mistaken for CGI. This means that LAIKA probably have the slight technical edge over closest rivals Aardman, although they lack a bit of the UK firm's hand-made charm as a result.
It's interesting how stop-motion in the US has become closely associated with slightly darker, gothic-tinged material. This has become LAIKA's stock-and-trade and Boxtrolls carries on in this tradition. The Trolls themselves- who get their name from their habit of wearing discarded cardboard boxes for clothing- are a winning mix of cute and creepy. With their unpleasant habits and questionable personal hygiene they are a long way from the cute creatures found in more typical children's fare. The humans with their decadent ways and caricatured designs, are if anything even more grotesque. From start to finish the film is laced with gross-out elements that won't be to everybody's taste but will likely appeal to most children. This extends to the plot which has some darker elements, but they're all in the rich tradition of fairy-tale story-telling.
Speaking of the cast, they do a fantastic job across the board, with nobody letting the side down here at all. Standing out particularly is Kingsley as the villainous Archibald Snatcher with his performance proving to be one of the finest animation baddies in recent memory. Ayoade and Frost provide able back-up as his underlings who's slow realisation that they may in fact be working for The Bad Guy is one of the film's highlights.
The film's story is ultimately pretty simple- a story of family and friendship and has positive message about acceptance and tolerance, although it's not exactly subtle ("Ah, but who are the REAL monsters?") The characterisation is pretty cartoonish and not exactly complex either. But it's not the story that The Boxtrolls will be remembered for, but rather it's stunning animation and stellar design. From the opening frames to the gorgeously animated 2D closing credits, this film is nothing less than a work of art.
THE BOXTROLLS is available now on DVD, BLU-RAY and DIGITAL from UNIVERSAL PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT.
Posted by Chris Perkins
Chris writes about movies, games, TV and other stuff you love, and has written for places including MyM magazine, Rant Gaming, KillStreakMedia and Anime UK News. He particularly specialises in the field of animation and spends far too much time watching cartoons for a grown up. He regrets nothing. Follow him at @misterchristor.