Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Movie Review - The Boxtrolls

The Boxtrolls (2014)
Featuring the vocal talents of Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Dee Bradley Baker, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Jared Harris, Toni Collette, and Simon Pegg
Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi

The one thing The Boxtrolls has going for it is that the stop-motion animation from Laika Studios (who brought us Coraline and Paranorman) is stunning.  Not only are the characters they create richly detailed and incredibly fluid in their motion (a little too fluid thanks to some computer animation techniques), but their production design from the costumes to the sets is astonishingly rich and creative.  (And, to the studio's credit, they've improved in these hands-on areas with each subsequent film they've released.)  Unfortunately, something with the story of The Boxtrolls doesn't measure up to what the animators and designers bring to the table.

Many years ago, a young boy was taken away by some underground creatures who come to the surface at night to collect trash which they turn into treasures in their dwelling.  Believed to be kidnapped, the community of Cheesebridge has since felt that these creatures whom they've named the Boxtrolls (because they wear disposed boxes as their clothing) are to be captured and killed for what they did.  The town puts their trust in Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), a slimy sleazeball of a guy who seems to be ridding Cheesebridge of the Boxtrolls, but really has a much more nefarious scheme in mind.

The Boxtrolls themselves aren't the least bit evil despite what the townsfolk may think.  Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright), the young boy they "took" nearly a decade ago, has grown up with the creatures as his good friends and family.  One evening when he ventures up to the surface for the first time, he comes across Winnie (Elle Fanning) -- his first encounter with a "human" -- who after years of being told by her father (Jared Harris) that the Boxtrolls are nasty, discovers that the creatures may be friendlier than anyone could have ever imagined.  Together, Eggs and Winnie attempt to change the town's mindset towards the Boxtrolls and take down Archibald Snatcher in the process.

There's a promising story here, but the flow of things doesn't quite click perhaps because there's too much fighting for attention.  While the Boxtrolls are cute and oddly cuddly, the relationship between Eggs and Winnie leads to quite a bit of humor, and Archibald is amusingly evil (in small doses), I can't help but think some story editing would've helped things out.  Rather than move along swiftly, more often than not the film feels like it's meandering without any real direction and its conclusion feels oddly unsatisfying.

Still, despite it's somewhat major problems, I always found myself glued to the screen because of the aforementioned stellar visuals.  Laika always brings a sense of quirkiness to all of their films and I sometimes think that strive for uniqueness feels as if they're trying a bit too hard.  They've got what it takes to make a great film (see Paranorman as an example), but they just need to spend a little more time in the story department.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

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