12 September 2014
Review: THE BOXTROLLS
Their latest is The Boxtrolls, based in part on the novel Here Be Monsters! Beneath the town of Cheesebridge, whose council consists of four white-hatted cheese-munching toffs, there dwells a race of Womble-like trolls who scavenge what they need to survive from the folk who live above. Ruthless social climber Archibald Snatcher will do anything to upgrade from red hat to white hat and having turned the town against the Boxtrolls, he vows to exterminate every last one of them to cement his position.
Laika's last two films, Coraline and ParaNorman, both dealt in horror genre tropes, sparing no scares in the process of telling a story that told kids not to be scared of being different and preached open-mindedness in the face of fear and intolerance. The Boxtrolls is the studio's funniest film to date, but aside from the thematic emphasis that links all of their films thus far, their affinity for the grotesque is still present and correct.
The Boxtrolls themselves are a little reminiscent of the Minions from Despicable Me, with the way in which they are distinguished from one another as characters, but also in the squabbling en-masse baby talk that fills any scene where there are lots of them. By necessity of the plot, they're not nearly as violent on the Looney Tunes scale, because it's important that we care that they might get hurt, or worse. Crucially, it manages to make them cute despite the fact that they're butt-ugly little critters at first glance, with their ashen skin, buck-teeth and big bright eyes.
Meanwhile, although Snatcher is far from the hero of the story, he's the kind of brilliantly drawn arch-villain who has convinced himself that he is. He's also the most interesting character to study, seeing the lengths that he will go to for power in a town obsessed with tasting cheese, even though he himself is lactose intolerant. Ben Kingsley's all-but-unrecognisable vocal work makes him into a truly ridiculous figure who still comes off as a threat because of his sheer malice. For comic relief, he's backed up by Tracy Morgan as his second in command and a hilarious pair of henchmen voiced by Nick Frost and Richard Ayoade, who re-enact the "Are we the baddies?" shtick from That Mitchell & Webb Look. ("I'm about 60% sure we're still the good guys.")
As in the best voiced animated films, there's a refreshingly anonymous quality to the performances of the all-star cast. The only voices I definitely recognised all the way through were Ayoade and Jared Harris, as Winnie's cheese-daft father and for the first time in years, I had to stay for the credits to find out who voiced the other characters. The vocals fill out the sumptuous visuals nicely and there's even a delightful mid-credits reward for anyone who sticks around that long. Trust me, this little add-on is near unmissable, suggesting a larger universe to the film in a more delightful fashion than any number of Nick Fury cameos could create.
The Boxtrolls is now showing, in 2D and 3D, at cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen The Boxtrolls, why not share your comments below? If you've read this far, here's another reminder- stay through the credits!
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.