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Movie Review

The Boxtrolls

MPAA Rating: PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor.

Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Kids Family
Animation Adventure Kids Family Fantasy
1 hr. 37 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 26, 2014 (wide—3,300+ theaters)
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Focus Features

bridging two worlds

caves and cave-dwellers in the Bible


judging others unfairly

a loving community that is lied about by others and bullied by an genocidal exterminator

doing the right thing


courage, bravery

Inner good character is more important than outward appearance.

Kid Explorers™
Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.
Featuring: Ben KingsleyArchibald Snatcher (voice)
Jared HarrisLord Portley-Rind (voice)
Nick FrostMr. Trout (voice)
Elle FanningWinnie (voice)
Toni ColletteLady Portley-Rind (voice)
Simon PeggHerbert Trubshaw (voice)
Richard Ayoade … Mr. Pickles (voice)
Tracy Morgan … Mr. Gristle (voice)
Dee Bradley Baker … Fish / Wheels / Bucket (voice)
Steve Blum … Shoe / Sparky (voice)
more »
Director: Graham Annable
Anthony Stacchi
Producer: Laika Entertainment—“Coraline” (2009), “ParaNorman” (2012)
Distributor: Focus Features

“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.

Content of possible concern

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).

Final Thoughts

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.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—I have been told that there is supposed to be some promotion of homosexual men parenting in this movie. I can see how some might try to impose that view on it, but if the issue hadn’t been raised elsewhere I never would have seen it. I wouldn’t avoid it out of concern for that issue, at any rate.

On its own merits, the film seems harmless enough and mildly diverting. A bit dark for the very young, perhaps a bit slow for the older kids. But it had enough humor and action to make it worthwhile. Look for two of the villain’s henchmen trading dryly humorous comments with each other, a la the two in “The Pirates of the Caribbean.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Jeremy Klein, age 59 (USA)
Positive—… BOXTROLLS (the movie) revelation!!! A retelling of the Gospel? ***SPOILER*** (continue reading only if you’ve watched it already!!)

(For those who watched it): The Boy (aka inventors “Son”) is raised by boxtrolls (humans). Inventor (aka Creator God) is present at first, but is removed from humanity only to be whispering to his Son after the boy is captured. Snatcher (aka Satan) likes to snatch boxtrolls and wants to destroy them. Boxtrolls wear boxes and are said to be “naked” after they choose to “change their nature” and appear naked in the “place above” filled with light, music, joy (ie heaven) since they have been living “in the dark” (below)this whole time. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Deanna Wong, age 27 (Canada)
Neutral—First off, this movie is NOT for kids—it is for adults to enjoy. Your first clue should have been from the movie trailer that includes the ½ second scene where a short, creepy character throws a jug of leaches at the movie camera. That alone was enough to warrant going to screen the film with just me and my wife. It didn’t take long before my wife leaned over to me and whispered, “we're NOT taking the kids to see this!” There are characters that are just too creepy and weird and doing things that would make kids uncomfortable (possibly give them nightmares later).

I am mostly very disappointed that this move was marketed to kids (see the movie trailer where the song “He’s got the whole world in His hands” is playing throughout).

I’ll admit—the trailers got me very excited and I shared them with my kids shortly after I saw them. Now I’m stuck having to explain why this is really not a kids movie at all. I don’t appreciate that.

Now, having said all that… The movie—for an adult—was good. The story was new to me, so it was fresh. The movie making quality (the claymation and the cinematography in particular) was off the charts exceptional. It’s a shame that my kids will have to wait until they are 12 or so before they could really handle the topics and themes covered in the movie. In the future, I wish the movie companies would be more straight with us about who their intended audience is and manage those expectations via their movie trailers accordingly.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Patrick, age 43 (USA)
Neutral—Uhm, so the villain engages in cross-dressing for the purpose of deception to aid his overall villainous plan. And, yes, clearly, he gains personal satisfaction from hobnobbing with the male upper class and again, uses cross-dressing and deception to this end. And yes, his performance of this deception clearly intended to take advantage of the lustful thoughts of his upper-class victims. But, he is a villain. Would it be better for villains to engage in “good” behavior to achieve their plans? Isn’t it usually the case in such entertainment that the “good guys” are cross-dressing to infiltrate and achieve their supposed good goals (“Mulan”). Sinning villains seems too me to be better than unrepentant “heroes.” more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Craig, age 40 (USA)
Negative—The technical quality of the animation was great, but:

1. The male villain cross-dresses as a woman, apparently for pure pleasure and to get the attention and adoration of men. It is not simpy a tactic in his nefarious scheme, as I supposed at first, which might have made it forgivable. The cross-dressing is given a lot of screen time throughout the film.

2. The end credits song called “Some Kids” talks about different kinds of families, like some kids having a father and a mother, or a sister and a brother, or dozens of cousins, etc.… which is fine until the following lyrics pop up: “Some kids have a FATHER and a FATHER”—putting a big exclamation point upon the fact that this whole movie is a metaphor for the homosexual community living “underground” and “in a box” and finally “coming out” of both to live among the mainstream population, naked and unashamed. And the human boy in the story is raised by this “different kind of family”—meaning the Boxtrolls, which are the homosexual symbol.

3. The movie was somewhat blah in terms of story line, and the ending was fairly blah. Nothing very imaginative in the entire movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Scott, age 34 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
Negative—I saw a trailer for “The Boxtrolls” when I was at the theater several months ago. The trailer mentioned that there were many different types of families. In the description of families were listed that a family could have two fathers or two mothers. That seemed blatant enough to me that this wasn’t a movie I wanted to bring my children to.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
—Teresa, age 58 (USA)

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