Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
|Featuring:||Ben Kingsley … Archibald Snatcher (voice)
Jared Harris … Lord Portley-Rind (voice)
Nick Frost … Mr. Trout (voice)
Elle Fanning … Winnie (voice)
Toni Collette … Lady Portley-Rind (voice)
Simon Pegg … Herbert Trubshaw (voice)
Richard Ayoade … Mr. Pickles (voice)
Tracy Morgan … Mr. Gristle (voice)
Dee Bradley Baker … Fish / Wheels / Bucket (voice)
Steve Blum … Shoe / Sparky (voice)
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|Producer:||Laika Entertainment—“Coraline” (2009), “ParaNorman” (2012)|
“Dare to be square. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes… even rectangles.”
Meet Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright). Eggs is not your average kid. In fact, you might not think of him as a kid at all. When he was a baby, a group of creatures known as boxtrolls (trolls that wear boxes) snatched him from his home and raised him underneath the city of Cheesebridge.
Ten years later, Eggs has found his place with the boxtrolls. He and the other boxtrolls go above ground to “acquire” thrown away items to build contraptions for their home below ground.
The people of Cheesebridge, though, are not so keen about the boxtrolls. They, under the persuasive influence of Mr. Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), have been taught to believe the worse about the trolls, that the trolls are evil creatures that steal children (like Eggs) and adults, bring them underground, and eat them. Mr Snatcher’s plan? To become a respected member of Cheesebridge through the acquisition of the prestigious White Hat, which he can only get once he kills all the boxtrolls. It’s up to Eggs, his new human friend Winnie (Elle Fanning), and all the boxtrolls to stop Mr. Snatcher before the boxtrolls cease to exist as we know it.
I’m gonna just get straight to the point. “The Boxtrolls” is a bit of a disappointment. The premise in the previews leads you to believe the story is about the boxtrolls. To some extent, yes, it is about them. But actually, it really isn’t the MAIN focus. More of the story, I feel, is focused on Mr. Snatcher, his obsession over the white hat and his ruthless treatment of the boxtrolls (over the years, he creates a Boxtrolls Extermination company with his three henchmen). Personally, I wanted to know more about the boxtrolls. I wanted to see more scenes involving them. Instead, the villain gets the spotlight, and that was disappointing.
The other thing that bothered me (which I will touch in the content section) is the darkness that engulfs this film from the beginning up until the final scenes. It shouldn’t have surprised me, though, because the creators behind “Coraline” and “Paranorman” were the same creators behind “The Boxtrolls.” Mr. Snatcher truly is a villain in all manners. His appearance and those of the henchmen (physically and personality wise) are disturbing and frightening. I couldn’t help but agree when Eggs states to Mr. Snatcher, “The boxtrolls aren’t the monsters. You are.”
The good? The animation. I have always appreciated how much work goes into clay animation. I thought it looked pretty decent for “The Boxtrolls.” The boxtrolls, when we see them in action, are funny in some scenes and remind me a lot of the Minions from “Despicable Me.” I appreciate how the boxtrolls look out for each other and Eggs, raised Eggs as their own (even though he is clearly different). The story is fine. There are definitely some admirable themes that are very present in the film (this will be addressed later). Some scenes tend to drag, and there are a couple that seem to rush. I think more character development was needed.
Violence: Moderate. Mr Snatcher’s main purpose in life is to capture and destroy all the boxtrolls for that White Hat. We watch him and his henchmen capture the boxtrolls and stick them in an underground cage (in a factory). Mr Snatcher describes the boxtrolls as people eaters and claims that where the trolls live there are “rivers of blood and mountains of bones.” There are some scenes involving slapstick violence between the boxtrolls. There’s a scene where Mr Snatcher uses a giant robot to snatch the trolls and destroy their home. In another scene, we are led to believe the trolls have been crushed. There are references to guts and the use of leeches.
Profanity: Mild. God’s name is used in vain a few times.
Sex/Nudity: Moderate. Eggs is seen, while running from Mr. Snatcher, hiding under women’s dresses during a party. There is rear nudity of the trolls. There’s a shocking, and, to me, inappropriate for kids, scene involving cross dressing (Mr. Snatcher in a few instances dresses up as a woman named Madame Frou Frou). Eggs scratches his private area (to which Winnie points out and tells him to stop). We see him doing this from behind. Madame Frou Frou (aka Mr. Snatcher) is seen being groped by other men (they touch his/her butt). There may be a subtle pro-Gay message (not overt), depending upon what you read into the film’s elements overall, presented through innuendo and metaphor—the boxtrolls being a possible metaphor for the LGBT community. Some viewers think they see evidence of it, others don’t.
Other: There is a scene where the boxtrolls and Eggs eat bugs. During the party, Eggs eats some of the food from the buffet and then spits out the chewed food onto his plate.
The surrounding themes of “The Boxtrolls” deal with difference and judging others. Eggs struggles in the film with accepting that he is not a troll, as much as he would like to be. It is a conflict that many people face, the struggle of who we are and who we really want to be.
But the biggest issue in this film is judging others unfairly. The people of Cheesebridge judge the boxtrolls without all the facts, and, eventually, they come to this realization. The Bible warns us that when we judge others, with or without the facts, we will be judged by God in the same manner (Matthew 7:1-3).
As I was walked out of the theater, I couldn’t help but overhear two parents saying to each other, “That was terrible. Then again, we walked in expecting it to be terrible.” Personally I think, with some editing and a less dark tone, “The Boxtrolls” would be suitable for viewing. Sadly, I don’t believe it is. Scenes involving cross-dressing, the above content, and the dark overall tone make it unsuitable for children under the age of 10, and, even then, I would caution parents to do their research. “The Boxtrolls” is not a bad film, per se. Some will find it funny and interesting. Ultimately, the decision lies with the viewer.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Mild—“Oh for G*d’s sakes,” “Oh my G*d,” “Good Lord” / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.