“The Boxtrolls” a Fun Family Film that Rocks (Film Review)

BOXTROLLS poster 1


A nice surprise for youngsters The Boxtrolls has ended the drought of animated family features for 2014.  The sweet film takes youngsters on an adventure like never before.  From a story based on the graphic novel “Here Be Monsters” by Alan Snow, the movie version can’t come at a better time on the eve of the month of trick or treat revelry (It’s an easy costume to make). Creative, bold, exciting and offering values that should leave lasting ideals, the movie tugs at the heartstrings while entertaining family audiences.

The story opens with the villainous Archibald Snatcher (voice of Ben Kingsley) riding through the streets of Cheesebridge while Boxtrools banter about looking for food and discarded junk.  Snatcher, boisterous and despicable, leads a squad of Red Hats who are the exterminators for the city.  When he reaches the mansion of Lord Portley-Rind (voice of Jared Harris) he makes him an offer to rid the city of the Boxtrolls that he claims took a baby and are ruining Cheesebridge. He asks for a membership in the White Hats, a higher echelon of citizens, as his fee.

Eggs and his underground family

Eggs and his underground family

After much thought, Lord Portley-Rind agrees only if every one of the Boxtrolls is exterminated.  Meanwhile time goes on and in the bowels of the city sewers lives the Boxtrolls who were asked to protect a human child they name Eggs (voice of Isaac Hempstead Wright).  As Eggs grows up he finds enjoyment living with Fish (Dee Bradley Baker), Shoe (voice of Steven Blum) and Sparky (voice of Steven Blum).  As the Boxtrolls lose members of their underground colony to Snatcher over time, Eggs grows to an older boy who now searches the streets at night with his protectors.

Winnie and Eggs become friends and sneak into the palace ball

Winnie and Eggs become friends and sneak into the palace ball

One night while escaping Snatcher in the streets, Eggs runs into young 11-year-old Winnie Portley-Rind (voice of Elle Fanning) and their eyes meet.  Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi keep their film moving along at a fast clip after introducing all the characters and setting up the audience for a thrilling adventure.  They elaborate on their story so no role gets left unmasked and then the characters play off each other toward an exciting final half.  Nicely played, children will delight watching the story unfold to a musical soundtrack fit for a toe tapping audience.

If you have seen the movies ParaNorman, Coraline or The Nightmare Before Christmas, then you will be familiar with the animation that makes this film work.  I like it very much and marvel at how it all comes together.  Annable and Stacchi use a form of stop-motion where they move each character bit by bit taking shots of the action on a small sound board. Filling the movie with movement and creative costuming the film becomes an exciting presentation within colorful and magical settings. The process is tedious, but the result is well worth the entertainment value.  Stay through the end credits and you will see how a scene gets put together using the stop-motion process.

Eggs finds himself in a pickle

Eggs finds himself in a pickle

The voices of the characters are extremely good with Sir Ben Kingsley giving his vocal talents to the devious Archibald Snatcher.  He creates a memorable stout lout who’s determined to get into the White Hat social standing even if it means eradicating all the Boxtrolls from Cheesebridge.  With a bellowing voice he commands his red hated henchmen Mr. Trout (Nick Frost), Mr. Pickles (Richard Ayoade) and Mr. Gristle (Tracy Morgan) to do his bidding.  Kingsley even belts out a tune disguised as the popular Thru Thru during a special party thrown by Lord Portney Rind.

Elle Fanning and Isaac Hempstead Wright are just right for the voices of Eggs and Winnie.  Providing age perfect deliveries of the two they surly relate with the youngsters in the audience.  While Fanning gives Winnie a sassy personality who won’t accept no to her demands, Isaac chimes in for Eggs with levelheaded ideas that keep her in check.  In tandem they are a great duo and produce audience laughter, and even some scenes disgust. Hemstead Wright is best known by adults as Bran Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones, while Elle Fanning can be seen in the blockbuster Disney film Maleficent as Princess Aurora.

Winnie waves as her father Lord Portley-Rind  gives a speech

Winnie waves as her father Lord Portley-Rind gives a speech

The Boxtrolls has been rated PG by the MPAA for action, some peril and mild rude humor.  Be cautioned that there is a scene where Snatcher gets violent using a wrench and some of the Boxtrolls seemingly get smashed with a huge press.  You may want to be within hugging range of your 5 and under and immature youngsters when they see the film.

FINAL ANALYSIS: This little animated film provides a whole lot of family fun. (A)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, and Simon Pegg
Directed by: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi
Genre: Comedy, Animated, Family, Adventure
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor
Running Time: 1 hr 37 min
Release Date: September 26, 2014
Distributed by: Focus Features
Release Formats:2D, 3D

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