'Boxtrolls' is a big box of fun!
PHOTO BY FOCUS FEATURES
Where is it playing?: Downtown Centre 7 Cinema (in 2- and 3-D), Regal Arroyo Grande Stadium 10 (in 2- and 3-D), Galaxy Colony Square Theatre (in 2- and 3-D), Park Cinemas 9 (in 2-D)
What's it rated?: PG
What's it worth?: $8.50
What's it worth?: $8.00
A boy raised by boxtrolls fights to save his friends from a pack of maniacal exterminators. Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi bring Irenal Brignull’s
and Adam Pava’s screenplay to life through stop-motion animation. (Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Nick Frost). (96 min.)
Editor’s Note: New Times Managing Editor Ashley Schwellenbach and Senior Staff Writer Colin Rigley filled in for Glen Starkey this week.
Colin: Mr. Trout turns to Mr. Pickles and asks whether he thinks the boxtrolls truly understand the duality of good and evil. It was at this moment I knew The Boxtrolls was going to be completely delightful. I’ve had to sit through a bunch of cinematic crap over the last few weeks, but the handcrafted and superbly written effort of directors Anthony Stracchi and Graham Annable was the palate cleanse I’ve been waiting for. The plot is nothing new, and the animation is just clunky enough to remind us that it was all created by madmen puppeteers, but it’s impossible not to fall in love with every charming frame. Each troll is named after his/her/its (I’m not sure how these things propagate) box. Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) is the oblivious human child raised by the boxtrolls. Fish (Dee Bradley Baker) is his adopted father. They’re all joined by an assortment of trolls, living beneath an English(ish) city perched atop an impossibly tall mountain. The basic premise is that Archibald Snatcher promises to exterminate the boxtrolls in exchange for a white hat, which will earn him entrance to an elite club that consists of old men sitting around eating cheese. It wasn’t until the end of the movie that I realized Mr. Trout was voiced by Nick Frost, Snatcher by Ben Kingsley, and assorted other characters by assorted other actors, including Simon Pegg and Tracy Morgan.
Ashley: This is one of those very rare films that delivers exactly what the trailer promises, and one of the even rarer occasions on which that is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong: The Boxtrolls is no Pixar masterpiece that will leave you sobbing into your sleeve over your lost childhood. It’s rougher, and the tone and humor is decidedly British, but it’s also quite charming, managing to appeal to its young audience—and I know this because I heard numerous squeals and laughs from the youthful crowd in the theater—without dumbing down its content or pandering. Yes, the box trolls are grotesquely adorable, though not nearly as grotesque as the humans with their gaping maws and sharp, hooked noses, raising the terribly important question: Who are the real monsters? And is it possible that our long-held beliefs and prejudices were actually manipulated by people who don’t necessarily have our best interests in mind? These are important questions to ask at any age, but I’d argue that the lessons from The Boxtrolls—particularly as they pertain to the self-indulgent priorities of those in power—are sadly applicable on a bigger, political level.
Colin: I loved The Boxtrolls because of its simplicity. So many of these animated movies try to throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks. This movie, in contrast, creates a very focused world and story, and executes a fairly simple vision. There are no pop culture references or scenes set to electronic dance music, and little to no clichés. And did I mention the animation? Because the animation is worth marveling at. Much like an expertly crafted Pixar production, this movie feels as though it were lovingly put together by crazy people dedicated to their craft. It could just as easily have been done in a computer, but there’s something that feels more organic sewn between the frames. Maybe that’s because I’m old and beginning to treasure movies that forego CGI in favor of something more tangible. So what? This movie is just cool to watch—to know that each frame was arranged by hand. Yeah, I guess I’m old and afraid of what’s new and strange. If you’ve got a problem with that then take your smug millennial butt the hell off my porch. Damn kids.
Ashley: I should probably point out at this juncture that the movie is based on Alan Snow’s children’s novel Here Be Monsters, which I haven’t read so I can’t issue a reliable opinion about whether the movie does justice to the book. Nonetheless, you should read the book before watching the movie because such an activity is enjoyable and good for the brain, and it’s important to raise kids to be readers. Life lesson over. While I found the movie visually arresting, it really was the little details, the odd jokes, and dialogue that sold me on the film. I was tickled by the continued philosophical conversations between Mr. Pickles and Trout about their status as henchmen and legitimate concern that they were, in fact, the bad guys. And while the plot doesn’t offer much in the way of anything unexpected, it’s the bizarre little quirks—a longtime prisoner’s predilection for proclaiming “Jelly!” with the enthusiasm of a young child while swinging upside down—that make this a memorable film.
Comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.