By Rob Jefchak
Stop motion animation wowed us when it first became feature film material with Tim Burton’s masterpiece “A Nightmare before Christmas”, since then there have been a number of films that utilize that style and continue to expand and improve on the style. If you have too much of something though then it begins to lose its quality as you become oversaturated to the point where it becomes too common and less creative. Was that what happened with this latest kids fantasy film about a group of monsters that live in boxes underneath the feet of high society fat cats? Were about to find out as we take a deep, dirty dive into the world of the whimsical “Boxtrolls.”
As explained before, the Boxtrolls are goblin like creatures that live peacefully off the scraps of garbage and objects; under the city known as Cheesebridge. A young boy named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) who was raised by the Boxtrolls discovers that a man named Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) is planning to exterminate the Boxtrolls in order to be accepted in the rich good graces of the upper class society of Cheesebridge. In order to save his freakish foster family, Eggs must work with a feisty young girl named Winnie (Elle Fanning) and save the Boxtrolls from being wiped out and allowing them to co-exist peacefully. The creators behind this film also crafted the equally similar films “Coraline” and “Paranorman.”
All 3 of these films come from children’s fantasy books and have been brought to life through the same style: stop motion animation. Being someone who has seen the previous films, the decline in quality has become fairly evident with each new film. The animation (as always) remains gorgeous, beautiful and breathtakingly unique; they truly have a stunning style that’s all their own. But as pretty as “Paranorman” was, it failed to retain any lasting impact on me after seeing the far superior “Coraline.” With “Boxtrolls” the creators took a far more simplified and safe route with a much more family friendly angle than the spooky designs and creatures from “Coraline” and “Paranorman.”
In other words, “Boxtrolls” is cute…very, very child safe, warm and huggable cute. They’re dirty and the film revolves around the visual and verbal acknowledgments of dirt, grime and muck but the movie is still very cute. The idea of a child raised by monsters makes for most of the humorous moments of the film and no doubt any child will giggle with glee at the amusing noises and shenanigans the trolls perform on a regular basis (much like the Minions from the “Despicable me” series.) None of these elements though point to anything bad, in fact, the visuals and the whimsical nature of the monsters adds more charm than creepiness and that’s a very good mix with a kids film.
The biggest issue really is that there is nothing actually big here; this is fair, simple, average stuff that doesn’t really break any boundaries or offer you something you haven’t already seen. I viewed this as one of those cases where, if you had never seen stop motion animation movies before than this would look absolutely amazing to you and it would feel fresh and new. But if you’ve already seen a stop motion film before, this will still wow you visually but safe sometimes produces a lack of daring ingenuity and makes things feel uneventful and harmless. “The Boxtrolls” overall offers good old fashioned family fun with an animation style that will always astound and entertain us. The characters are amusing enough, the antics of the Boxtrolls are very kid friendly and it remains a satisfactory piece…it just doesn’t go any further beyond the call of duty.
I give “The Boxtrolls” 2 stars out of 4.