One night in the towering town of Cheeseville, the young son of Mr. Trubshaw is kidnapped by monsters. The vile Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), a pest exterminator, makes a deal with Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) — a cheese-consuming, pompous fool — to rid the town of every one of these brutes in exchange for membership to the White Hats, a group of noble men who serve as the town council. Contrary to Snatcher’s misguided opinion, although mischievous, these creatures are actually a peaceful group of subterranean dwellers known as Boxtrolls.
“The Boxtrolls” was produced by the stop-motion animation studio Laika. This is Laika’s third animated feature, the first two being “Coraline” (2009) — which I consider a near masterpiece — and “Paranorman” (2012). Sadly, “The Boxtrolls” is most definitely the weakest of the three films.
The Boxtrolls themselves can best be described as cute but unorthodox. Every night, this silly group of trolls wander around town in search of items to use for their inventions, all the while wearing their signature cardboard boxes. Among these trolls lives a boy named Eggs (Isaac Wright), watched over by a Boxtroll named Fish (Dee Baker).
As he grows up, Eggs faces the the threat of Archibald and his men Mr. Gristle (Tracy Morgan), Mr. Trout (Nick Frost), and Mr. Pickles (Richard Ayoade) — a group of fumbling idiots who are ironically deeply philosophical, constantly debating the difference between good and evil. Through the years, Egg watches as more and more Boxtrolls are captured by this group. On the 10th anniversary of the Trubshaw baby kidnapping, Egg decides to surface and find out the mystery revolving around these kidnappings.
From here, “The Boxtrolls” becomes rather formulaic. At the end of the first act, I was able to predict the pace of the story nearly beat by beat. Much of the story is pushed along by our villain, Archibald Snatcher, who much like the Boxtrolls themselves, fights for his own sense of place in this world of upper class aristocracy. Eggs as our protagonist stumbles around a lot, befriends Lord Portley-Rind’s daughter Winnie (Elle Fanning), and shows us his lack of human etiquette. Even with its cliché plot line, there is still a chance it could appeal to certain audiences with its humor and visuals.
The only thing I really loved about this film was its visuals. The world is fully realized, and each character model is either strikingly grotesque or cute — in an ugly sort of way. I have always been impressed with Laika’s display of animation, and with “The Boxtrolls,” I was won over once again.
The humor of “The Boxtrolls” won’t be for everyone. The gross-out humor was dished out far too often. I definitely found myself chuckling at dialogue from time to time, but there was only one moment during the film that I heard the whole theater laughing together. Personally, I found the funniest, most genuine moments came by use of satire.
At it’s core, “The Boxtrolls” is a movie about identity and finding one’s place in the world. Few scenes really shine in this film, and as a whole, the movie doesn’t always work. However, it still gets by with its great use of stop-motion and tremendous cast of voice actors.
Is the movie worth the price of a ticket? Maybe, if you get a student discounted matinee.
Grant Fitzgerald is a senior film production major. This review reflects the view of the writer only.