Laika first arrived on the scene with the extremely well crafted and genuinely charming family film Coraline. That film, which landed on my list for top films of 2009, was an A class effort for a brand new studio trying to usher in a new era for a filmmaking style (stop motion animation) that despite seeing some latent (albeit monumental) success with A Nightmare Before Christmas, never really caught on with movie goers nor their target audience, children, the way it deserved to.
While the format is still struggling to find an audience that will eventually embrace it and make the time and care needed to make one of these films see the profits they deserve, Laika thankfully still carries on and has now delivered unto us The Boxtrolls. Their latest effort shares many of the same qualities we have come to expect from Laika, such as meticulous attention to detail, a clever sense of humor and an overtly bizarre sense of style that is wholly unique to their films. But whilt it is both visually their most striking effort, it is also emotionally their most vacant feature to date. Read the full review after the break.
Review Vital Stats:
Projector Type: Digital 2D
Film Rating: PG
Film Runtime: 1 hr 36 min
Studio: Focus Features
Loves: Coraline, Stop Motion Animation
Neutral: Style over substance
Hates: That these films don't get the love the deserve
Why boxes?: We never get any insight as to why the trolls love boxes so much other than to hide in
|The Boxtrolls aren't exactly the bloodthirsty creatures people think they are.|
The truth of the matter is that the boxtrolls are very timid creatures and are nothing more than mere scavengers who scour the streets in search of tossed away trinkets to add to their bustling cave dwelling far beneath the city above. Snatcher has created this false veneer about the boxtrolls in order to garner favor with local aristocrat named Lord Portley-Rind (voiced by Jared Harris), one of four White Hats (a symbol of their wealth) who oversee official city business but more importantly are in charge of all the cheese in Cheesebridge, a delicacy for the privileged and the wealthy. After Snatcher convinces Portley-Rind that the boxtrolls are responsible for the kidnapping and suspected murder of the Trubshaw baby he proceeds to rid the city of the unsuspecting boxtrolls.
|Eggs was given to the Boxtrolls under mysterious circumstances.|
Like all Laika's features the first thing that will strike most viewers are its arresting visuals. From the slightly off putting design of Snatcher and his geometrically distinct helpers, to the deceptively simplistic look of the boxtrolls themselves, there is little room for complaint when it comes to the eye candy on display here. Even the hilly streets of the physics-defying Cheesebridge have a personality all themselves that help construct the unique visual style of the film that will seem pleasingly familiar to fans of Laika's other work while still carving out a distinct visual identity all its own.
|Trolls...in boxes...box...trolls? Boxtrolls.|
The Boxtrolls unfortunately suffers the same fate as ParaNorman as the story similarly fails to live up to the quality of the visuals on display. Eggs, as the obvious main protagonist of the film, is a fairly mute presence through most of the film and only begins to have a personality near the end. Winnie starts out fiery and plucky but quickly gets kicked to the sidelines where she becomes more of a background character. Even the boxtrolls have very little personality. Sure, their cute (sort of), make funny noises and we derive some pleasure from watching their antics, but aside from Fish they all fail to stand apart from one another.
|Sadly most of the characters are fairly bland.|
But the truth of the matter is that even with these list of faults and misfires, The Boxtrolls still provides an ample amount of imagination, humor and character to fill any number of other bland and lifeless so-called family films that get released each year. It's sad that the story couldn't live up to the potential of its visuals, but The Boxtrolls is still a solid recommendation for anyone looking for a fun and imaginative family film to enjoy in the theater.