The Boxtrolls (3D)
Cert: PG / 97 mins / Dir. Graham Annable & Anthony Stacchi
It's almost (almost) as if animated films in the twenty first century have become too clean, too polished. And not just visually, either. It's almost (almost) as if all character foibles (and in the case of 'villains', entire defining traits) need to be ironed out, sanitised or fixed by the closing credits (sequels notwithstanding). Even with this in mind as I was watching, The Boxtrolls seemed to feature a layer of delightful sweat, which wouldn't quite let me love it, however much I admired what was in front of me. Although it was only published in book-form in 2005, the story has a true Dahl-esque feel to it, where even the characters you're rooting for are charmingly flawed.
The story of a young boy raised underground by non-human scavenger creatures and his subsequent re-acquaintance with the surface-world, The Boxtrolls carries themes of family, identity and societal unrest that would probably be handled far more cloyingly by one of the major animation studios. That said, I don't think the film has the immediacy of Laika's previous feature, Paranorman, and the aforementioned 'dirty' look and feel may well put off casual audiences and critics alike (although it's going to be a done deal for existing fans of the book).
The animation itself (including the 3D) is absolutely stunning; hand-crafted stop-motion with a fluidity I've never seen before, and the film has a voice-cast to match it perfectly (Ben Kingsley is a particular highlight as cheese-obsessed super villain, Archibald Snatcher). Rolling in at a very respectable 97 minutes (where many computer-animated features are shorter*1), you have to admire the craft, even if nothing else takes your fancy (hang around during the credits for the tiniest glimpse into the scale of making the film). I even thought that the central character's racing helmet may have been a nod to Anakin Skywalker's podracing gear, but a) that may be a generic design, and b) I would think that, wouldn't I?
I was left with the impression that there were areas which could have used further development (the young Eggs playing music with the boxtrolls is seen in a montage at the start of the film then not used again), but the film certainly packs its runtime to maximum effect.
For the younger members of the audience, there'll be as much to disturb them in The Boxtrolls as there will to entertain, which thinking about my favourite books as a child feels about right. Like being trapped in a charming yet macabre dream, The Boxtrolls has a lot to offer. It's just hidden under a layer of grime…
Kinda, although there are surprisingly few 'jokes' in there.
Whatever takes your fancy; the story will work on any size screen, but the animation is beautiful on a big screen.
Maybe a touch, but not enough for you to worry your pretty little head over.
I will, but there's no burning need at the moment.
Didn't catch one.
Have you seen any other films this year which make an almost direct homage to Fist Of Fun's Rod Hull character?
Because I've seen one, now.
*1 I'm not saying that computer animation is "easier", by any means, but the physical frame-by-frame effort in a 97 minute stop-motion picture has to be commended when a behemoth like Disney are prepared to put out an 84 minute CGI feature as their Summer standard-bearer.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.