UK Release Date: 12th September 2014
Runtime: 97 minutes
Director: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi
Writer: Irena Brignull, Adam Pava
Starring: Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Richard Ayoade, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Jared Harris
Synopsis: A human boy brought up by troll scavengers must fight to foil a plot to exterminate his adopted family.
Animation studio Laika made The Boxtrolls off the back of enormous critical hits Coraline and Paranorman. Their signature, oddball style has made them one of the most interesting companies working in the field of family movies and The Boxtrolls is yet another success to add to their impressive resume.
Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) is a human child, who has been brought up in the care of trolls who scavenge above ground at night. One day, prim and proper girl Winnie (Elle Fanning) helps Eggs evade exterminator Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) and his oddly philosophical henchmen (Richard Ayoade and Nick Frost). Armed with knowledge of his past, Eggs must stop Snatcher before he succeeds in putting an end to his adopted family.
From the very first frame of The Boxtrolls, it is clear that Laika has put an enormous amount of effort into crafting their universe. Every shot is beautiful and the level of detail on show is frankly absurd given the level of toil required to produce a stop motion feature.
| "Don’t scratch those! That’s why they’re called privates."
The film perfectly controls a tone that veers from kiddie-friendly gags to delightfully grotesque body horror that feels like Doctor Who meets David Cronenberg. There’s even a sight gag in the third act that would have the boys from Monty Python rubbing their hands with glee. The Boxtrolls is prepared to treat kids as if they are mature cinemagoers, which really counts in its favour.
Ben Kingsley is absolutely sublime in his role as pantomime villain Archibald Snatcher. From his truly gruesome allergic reaction to cheese to his evil relish at boxtroll extermination, Kingsley doesn’t so much chew the scenery as swallow it whole. He is helped by Richard Ayoade and Nick Frost, who consistently steal the show as henchmen constantly questioning whether they’re on the right side.
The Boxtrolls, like all great children’s films, does an excellent job of appealing to viewers of all ages. It has universal appeal and bucketloads of charm, aided by its stunning visuals and a voice cast that feels like a who’s-who of comic talent in Britain.
| "I’m long-boned."
Laika has hit another home run with The Boxtrolls, which comes at the end of a summer that has regularly fired wide of the mark with its family films. It has failed to catch fire at the box office, but this is a film that the kids will want to watch again and again on DVD.
Stay for the end credits sequence too. It’s bonkers, but brilliant.
Pop or Poop?
Rich with grotesque charm and surprisingly mature humour, The Boxtrolls is a film that understands audience perfectly.
Ben Kingsley is terrific as the snarling central villain and the supporting comic cast keep the laughs coming as the film rattles along to an enjoyably overblown finale.
Laika remains a real force in animated filmmaking, reinventing the wheel with one eye on the classics. Long may they continue!
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.