Director: Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Simon Pegg, Elle Fanning, Isaac Hempstead Wright
Written by: Irena Brignull, Adam Pava and (based on the novel “Here Be Monsters) Alan Snow
Running Time: 95 mins
Release date: 12th September 2014
Laika Entertainment could be looked upon as the antidote to all those fluffy animations where animals talk or princesses have the power over ice. They are a studio that has slowly been building a reputation for darker more twisted family animation like Coraline and ParaNorman. Their latest addition, The Boxtrolls, is just as dark and just as twisted as their previous features, yet you can’t help but wonder if they were holding back a little and that they could have gone even further.
Under the streets of Cheeseville, the townsfolk believe they have a menace: trolls who live in boxes and who eat babies, live on a river of blood and have piles of bones. What they don’t know is that the trolls are the complete opposite to the myths. They are friendly, scared and they take household objects that are thrown away and make them work again. The town’s villain, Archibald Snatcher, promises to get rid of all the boxtrolls in reward of a white hat that the local, more important gentlemen wear while eating cheese. What Snatcher and his henchmen don’t realise is that among the trolls is Eggs, a young boy who was believed eaten by the so-called monsters, who isn’t going to give up without a fight.
Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi have taken Alan Snow’s popular children’s book “Here Be Monsters!” and have gone all out to make it look grubby, grimy and very dirty. They also push out the boat when it comes to letting their animators use their imagination, all to make it a much more interesting visual treat than most run-of-the-mill cartoons that have been filling the screens of late. The attention to details is excellent with plenty going on in the background as well as the attention-grabbing foreground. Stop-motion animation should be applauded, as you know they have spent hours just working on a few seconds, so having so much to catch the eye should have you standing and clapping like mad.
The most interesting characters are the, as you would expect, the trolls. The little green monsters who live in cardboard boxes, look like unkept minions but without the personalities. Instead, Archibald Snatcher and his gang are the winners. A grotesque, pot-bellied fiend with awful teeth and a face that looks like a reject from Spitting Image, is a blast. The animators really go to town when he eats cheese, something he is allergic to and his face becomes bloated and red. Add to that the superb Ben Kingsley, bringing the character to life and you have a classic animated character.
Along with the voice talents of Richard Ayoade, Nick Frost and Tracy Morgan as Snitcher’s three henchmen (two who believe they are heroes and are shocked when they find out otherwise) and Simon Pegg as an inventor who has been hidden for years, they are great fun, while newcomer Isaac Hempstead Wright and seasoned veteran Elle Fanning as Eggs and Winnie, a young girl who befriends the mysterious boy, are perfectly fine.
While there is plenty to enjoy, you do wish they would have gone further and not held back so much. If there is one thing that children love, is being scared and while it is sometimes very grim, it could have pushed the boundaries. Instead it finds a groove to sit comfortably in and by the finale, it does seem to drag. It’s a pity because there are more fascinating sequences here than in most Pixar or Disney film. The post credit sequence is a very clever gag about animation and is worth the admission price alone.
The Boxtrolls isn’t as creepy as Coraline or as fun as ParaNorman but I’d rather sit through this than have to watch the laziness of Planes or The Nut Job. I don’t think it will be a classic in years to come but it might be fun to dip into on occasions.