The Boxtrolls (2014)

The Boxtrolls (2014)

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Boxtrolls Anonymous.
Boxtrolls Anonymous.

Twitter Plot Summary: The BoxTrolls raise a young boy for 10 years, scavenging from the town of Cheesebridge and hunted by exterminator Archibald Snatcher.

Five Point Summary:

1. Welcome to Cheesebridge, where cheese and white hats are coveted.
2. Eggs and Winnie, great combo. Much like cheese and wine.
3. Henchmen who are convinced they’re the good guys. Of course.
4. Maybe it’d be a good idea if you didn’t eat cheese, Archibald.
5. Jelly! Hehe!

2014 has proven to be a little light on solid children’s films, so it was with some happiness it’s a pleasure to report that The Boxtrolls marks perhaps one of the better animated films of the year, if not for its engaging story and gorgeous stop motion animation, but for its down and dirty presentation and its willingness to revel in muck and grime – a favourite pastime of children everywhere. Except the ones who aren’t allowed to go out and get mucky, of course.

With elements of Tim Burton’s stop motion work and sound effects culled from the same category as the Mudokons in Abe’s Oddyssee, the BoxTrolls are a loveable bunch of underground dwelling scavengers who are identified by the products described on the front of the boxes they live in – Wheels, Fish, Oil Can and so on. In their cave beneath the town they sleep under artificial stars that gradually fade out as their numbers are reduced and their cave falls into disrepair. They are hunted by the red hats led by the sinister Archibald Snatcher (Kingsley). Sir Ben Kingsley is almost unrecognisable as Snatcher, a man who covets a white hat which, in the town of Cheesebridge, symbolises power and respect, yet covets more the array of cheese that those with white hats are privileged to consume daily.

The remaining voice cast are equally as enjoyable, including Jared Harris as Lord Portley-Rind and Nick Frost and Richard Ayoade as Snatcher’s henchmen. There’s also an enjoyably mad turn from Simon Pegg as a jelly-obsessed character. The bulk of the film however is carried by youngsters Isaac Hempstead-Wright as Eggs and Elle Fanning as Winnie, youngsters bonded by their shared history of absent fathers. Winnie is obsessed with the possibly gruesome aspects of the Boxtrolls, all of which prove, for her, to sadly be false. Eggs is a baby raised by the Boxtrolls and throughout the film has to learn how to be a human again, with hilarious consequences.

"Archibald Snatcher, at your service. I'll also take that white hat, while I'm here. Much obliged."
“Archibald Snatcher, at your service. I’ll also take that white hat, while I’m here. Much obliged.”

The story is pitched at just the right level to appeal to a wide audience, with Eggs kidnapped as a baby and feared killed by the Boxtrolls, who scavenge unwanted items and essentially recycle them by finding other uses for them. Thematically there’s a surprising amount to be taken away if you look for it, but even from just a surface level interpretation it is a thoroughly enjoyable adventure, with enough twists and turns and moments of action and suspense to tick most of the genre boxes.

The Boxtrolls is ideal entertainment for the younger market, in particular young girls and boys who have an obsession with squiggly creatures and dirt. That’s not to say it doesn’t have appeal to adults – the jokes amuse frequently and the animation is first class. If you have an allergy to cheese then you may wish to avoid it, however – not only does it feature quite prominently but Archibald Snatcher has a, shall we say, minor allergic reaction to the merest whiff of cheese. You have been warned.

Score: 4/5

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