25th Jan2015

‘The Boxtrolls’ Blu-ray Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Isaac Hempstead Wright, Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, Nika Futterman, Maurice LaMarche | Written by Irena Brignull, Adam Pava | Directed by Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi


Below the streets of Cheesebridge live the Boxtrolls, a community of cave-dwelling and cardboard box-wearing creatures, who are believed to pose a threat to the citizens of the town and their children. However, in truth, they really pose no such threat and have even raised an orphaned boy, Eggs (voice of Isaac Hempstead Wright), as one of their own. Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), a local pest exterminator, hatches a plan to get rid of the Boxtrolls for good as a means of securing his place within the town’s cheese-loving elite. When the Boxtrolls hear of Archibald’s plan it then falls to Eggs to save the day, since he is the only member of the group who can remain undetected on the city streets. He ventures above ground and soon befriends local rich girl Winnie (Elle Fanning), who agrees to help Eggs save his adopted family from extinction…

The latest stop-motion animation from Laika, the studio behind Coraline and Paranorman, The Boxtrolls was one of those films that seems to light up Twitter on it’s cinema release. I remember that the majority of folks in my timeline had nothing but praise for the film – which is why I was so excited to finally check out the film on Blu-ray. But it’s safe to say the film I saw was nothing like the highly praised movie I was expecting.

For a start, The Boxtrolls looks ugly. Laika are known for slightly offbeat, slightly quirky animation but here everyone and everything looks grotesque. Hell, not even the films hero Eggs looks good, so much so that the titular characters are the cutest part of the film. Maybe that was the point? But then if so, where was the charm of Laika’s previous films? Whilst the boxtrolls may make cute noises, have cute expression and behave in a child-like manner, it doesn’t afford them any sort of empathy from the audience. And the films hero Eggs is one of the most unlikeable “good guys” I’ve seen in a kids film in years; and don’t get me started on Elle Fanning’s Winnie – the character is a spoilt brat who supposedly turns good but the character’s transformative arc was little more than “Ooh Eggs is a boy, I like boys” and “So boxtrolls aren’t bad guys?” I know this is a kids film but please, kids aren’t as stupid as Laika seems to think they are.

Don’t get me wrong, the voice cast do a great job – Sir Ben Kingsley’s Archibald Snatcher is a brilliant villain, his performance, coupled with the on-point character animation, is straight out of the Disney stable of quintessential evil-doer. And his sidekicks, voiced by Nick Frost and Richard Ayoade (who never disappoints, ever, it seems), are just as terrific. It such as shame that not one of the rest of the human cast measures up to this evil trio – either in performance or character. For shame.

Interestingly the Blu-ray of The Boxtrolls, especially in the 2D version, actually detracts from the extensive stop-motion animation. The purity of the high definition image actually – at times – makes Laika’s hard work look like little more than cheap CGI. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen Blu-ray hinder rather than help a movie. Maybe DVD is the way to go for this one?

Definitely a low point for Laika, The Boxtrolls is released on DVD and 3D Blu-ray (which also houses the 2D version) on January 26th.


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