“The Boxtrolls” – Movie Review

The Boxtrolls tells the story of a young boy and his adopted family of friendly monsters
The Boxtrolls tells the story of a young boy and his adopted family of friendly monsters

Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Directed by:
Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Toni Collette
Released by:
Laika Entertainment, Focus Features

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by Nick Winfrey

If you have the patience to sit through the closing credits of “The Boxtrolls,” there’s a clever little stinger near the end in which two of the film’s characters humorously postulate the existence of an unseen hand in the sky controlling their every move. The joke is, of course, that there are a multitude of hands that painstakingly choreograph each scene in this stop-motion epic, which are revealed in a blur of deft motions as the camera zooms out.

In an era of CGI, 3D modeling and parallel rendering, “The Boxtrolls” keeps things old-school, stubbornly sticking to intricately handcrafted sets and twelve-inch-tall puppets that are carefully manipulated by steady-handed animators. Produced by Laika, the same studio responsible for the spooky, critically acclaimed animated features “Coraline” and “ParaNorman,” the film took nearly three years to complete. The results, however, are simply stunning, transporting audiences to a magical, Dickensian world where cheese is king and monsters lurk beneath the streets.

So just what is a boxtroll? Imagine a slimy green creature with glowing yellow eyes, sharp, craggy teeth and a taste for bugs, worms and other creepy crawlers. At night, they roam the dark alleyways of Cheesebridge in search of scrap metal, discarded tools and — as rumor has it — human babies to bring back to their underground lair. In a not-so-surprising turn from the warped visionaries at Laika, these subterranean misfits are actually the good guys.

Perhaps the strangest of all boxtrolls is Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright), who is in fact not a boxtroll at all — he’s a human boy. Rescued as a baby and raised as one of the gang, Eggs is forced to come to terms with his own humanness after traveling above ground in order to save his adopted family. His nemesis is Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), a crude and conniving exterminator bent on destroying the harmless boxtrolls in exchange for a seat with the White Hats—the cheese-obsessed local dignitaries. Eggs finds an ally in Winifred (Elle Fanning), the neglected daughter of head White Hat Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris). However, when it becomes apparent that Lord Portley-Rind and the White Hats care more about downing gouda than doing good, Eggs and his motley crew are forced to take matters into their own hands.

From Eggs and his bug-munching friends to the balding and bulbous Archibald Snatcher, “The Boxtrolls” is a film that revels in the grotesque. While some scenes may be hard to stomach for adults, kids are sure to squeal with giddy terror at the gross-out comedy. If nothing else, the trash-to-treasure ethos of the boxtrolls is sure to ring true for frog-catching, puddle-jumping young viewers.

If we do dare to wipe away the muck, though, “The Boxtrolls” reveals itself as a charmingly moralistic tale centered around the search for identity and inner beauty in a world obsessed with white hats and rare cheeses. The humans in this film can act terribly monstrous, while our little green protagonists express a great deal of humanity.

For our part, we would gladly eschew slicing cheese with the White Hats in favor of crunching on caterpillars with the boxtrolls — or on second thought, maybe we’ll pack a sandwich.

For more information on “The Boxtrolls,” visit the official website


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