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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » The Boxtrolls (3D)
The Boxtrolls (3D)
Focus Features // PG // September 26, 2014
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted September 26, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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Few animated studios have managed to work their way up to the Oscar-caliber quality that we have come to expect from Pixar. Nevertheless, Focus Features has managed to captivate us with haunting adventures, such as Coraline. Even though I don't share this opinion, ParaNorman has captured the hearts of many families around the world. Based on the popular novel Here Be Monsters!, the very same distributor will be releasing the anticipated animated journey titled The Boxtrolls. Does it deliver the unforgettable qualities found within Coraline, or does it leave us with the bitter feeling of disappointment?

A group of mysterious creatures called Boxtrolls live underneath a city that fears them. The town upholds a curfew in order to keep the citizens safe from the "flesh-eating monsters." However, a young boy by the name of Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) has grown up under the supervision of two Boxtrolls named Fish (Dee Bradley Baker) and Shoe (Steve Blum), who are named after the boxes that they wear. With a new immediate danger threatening their existence, it's up to Eggs to save his friends from an evil exterminator (Ben Kingsley), and his confused henchmen.

At the beginning of The Boxtrolls, we're provided with the villain's motive to destroy all of the underground inhabitants, as well as an introduction of the small and misunderstood creatures that lurk in the night. The motive is surely symbolic for reasons that are to be exposed at a later time, while the Boxtrolls instantly prove to be cute and curious. This is one of those cases where the monsters are actually the good guys. Unfortunately, no emotional connection is formed between the audience and the protagonists. While Boxtrolls might wear different boxes and be voiced by different actors, nothing separates one from the other. Fish and Shoe receive the most amount of screen time, although we never necessarily feel as strongly about them as we should. This leads to an extremely small amount of tension as the film moves onto the climax, which is entirely dependent upon our feelings towards the protagonists. Meanwhile, Eggs has such a small amount of character disposition and an extremely limited amount of charm. You'll keep hoping that the characters will become more relatable, and they do. Is it enough?

Once Eggs is further exposed to the greater world, we're introduced to Winnie (Elle Fanning). She's the complete antithesis of Eggs, as she's a proper girl who has been neglected by her cheese-obsessed father. However, the character is absolutely insufferable. She simply isn't likable, making it difficult to want to follow her on this adventure. Fortunately, she places Eggs in new situations, which prove to be the more effective portions of the film. The Boxtrolls most certainly has a lighter sense of humor than that found in previous animated pictures distributed by Focus Features. This element truly shines through some of the new interactions that Eggs must face, as he must quickly learn how to be a proper young lad. There are a couple chuckles to be found throughout the course of this sequence, as he's forced to fend for himself within a banquet hall filled with wealthy townspeople. This is most certainly the most amount of character that we're able to find throughout the entire running time. It's just a shame that this tone couldn't be more consistent.

The Boxtrolls strives for an epic conclusion, as Eggs is tasked with an extraordinary quest that would be monumental for such a naive young boy. However, it all relates back to a statement made previously about our inability to connect with the protagonists. There's an extremely limited amount of tension that we're able to obtain. However, the story quickly takes a turn towards more mature subject matter as new characters are introduced, and more is revealed about Eggs' past. Adults will surely be able to appreciate the more complex tone, as it provides a stronger sense of struggle for our protagonists. The finale is fairly formulaic, although it becomes quite dark for a film made for families, as there are a few scenes that might scare younger children. Even so, the more mature elements aren't entirely followed through upon, but the small taste that we get of them is quite strong.

Similar to the animation seen in Coraline and ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls utilizes stop-motion. This style of animation once again proves to look absolutely fantastic. It provides a certain atmosphere that simply can't be achieved by any other type of animation. The art direction is quite strong, as the environments radiate off of the screen. Unfortunately, there isn't any contrast seen between Eggs' welcoming home underground and the seemingly treacherous world up above in the town. This leads to a rather bland color palette that doesn't pull us into what the protagonist is experiencing. If you're looking to catch it in 3D, you'll be disappointed to learn that the picture doesn't have the depth that one would expect from an animated feature. If you're interested in seeing this on the big screen, you'd be better serviced by viewing the 2D presentation. Nevertheless, the non-stop style itself looks as great as audiences will be hoping for.

Even with the massive amount of potential, The Boxtrolls proves to be a disappointing moviegoing experience. We're never able to connect with any of the protagonists, leaving us with tensions that we don't care much about. However, the climax introduces a more mature tone that older audiences will surely enjoy, although the filmmakers fail to push the envelope in order to keep us captivated. It quickly returns to the very same structure that lacks personality and charm. I wanted Eggs and the Boxtrolls to capture my heart, but it all feels so distanced from us. The Boxtrolls has the pieces to be great, but they don't all come together in the end. Rent it.

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