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Boxtrolls - LAIKA Studios Edition [Blu-ray + DVD], The

Shout Factory // PG // August 31, 2021
List Price: $22.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted September 21, 2021 | E-mail the Author
The Boxtrolls:

The Boxtrolls is the third film from Portland, Oregon-based stop-motion animation studio Laika, released in 2014. Loosely based on the book "Here Be Monsters!" by Alan Snow, the charming movie tells the story of a boy raised by trolls, and his journeys in the surface world of humans. Fans of Laika's intricate work will find the movie, and this extras-packed release, irresistible.

We're introduced to human toddler Eggs (so named because that's what the box he wears used to contain) living underground amongst the boxtrolls, creatures who live a magical existence tinkering with tools and such which they swipe from the garbage on midnight raids to the world above their sewer home. Eggs has been adopted more-or-less by a troll named Fish, who teaches him to jam along with a barbershop quartet record. Unfortunately, above ground, exterminator Archibald Snatcher has vowed to eliminate all boxtrolls in a bid to curry favor with the ‘white-hats', cheese-loving aristocrats in the town of Cheesebridge. When Eggs is spotted by white-hat Lord Portley-Rind's recalcitrant daughter Winnie, events are set in motion that will have ramifications for the entire town.

Full of stunning visuals and charming characters, The Boxtrolls shines as an animation masterpiece. Laika's production design team has created a world vertiginous and Dickensian above ground, filled with filigree and lived-in details, dirt and detritus on the streets, plus glitz and pungent cheeses in Portley-Rind's mansion. Meanwhile below-ground the Boxtrolls' world is, while filthy, also cozy and magical, packed with minutia and faux-stars in the sky, every frame of film a whimsical piece of art. Design elements of course encompass motion itself, with the boxtrolls' night-time routine: retreating into their individual boxes and stacking in a collective structure representing a particular delight. Character designs and expressions go hand in hand with voice talent to further cement the outsize illusion. Though the boxtrolls are nominally ugly, they're also cute, with a language all their own. Meanwhile the cast, from Ben Kingsley's basso Snatcher to Elle Fanning's sassy Winnie (with delirious stops along the way for Richard Ayoade and Tracy Morgan as Snatcher's henchmen) are all top notch.

Stop-motion is like the cheese so loved by nearly everyone in Cheesebridge. It's a little something of an acquired taste, not as easy to penetrate as simple cell animation. As cheese takes forever to create, so it is with stop-motion, a way to tell a visual tale in the most arduous, idiosyncratic way possible. The results, however, can be deep, complex, and incredibly satisfying. Such is The Boxtrolls, a relatively simple morality tale painstaking in production (for instance one 56-second shot took an animator 4 months to create). Full of enrapturing visuals, sly-style, and fantastic performances, The Boxtrolls is a top-notch movie for kids of all ages, and this extras-laden edition is Highly Recommended.


The DVD

Video:
Shout! Factory brings you this Laika Studios Edition of The Boxtrolls in a 1080p Widescreen presentation at a 1.78:1 ratio. I've not seen the original Blu-ray release, but this new scan appears stellar; colors pop, details are crisp, and artifacts are nil. Things hold up well even at speed, such as when Eggs is being spun around on a giant mechanical contraption, and in the shadows, which are plentiful during night scenes and in the boxtrolls' underground lair. About as good as it gets for HD.

Sound:
Audio options are English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, and French 5.1 Dolby Digital. The English track sports a great dynamic range which makes vocal talent, such as Ben Kingsley's throaty turn as Snatcher, and Ayoade's nasal twang, really shine. The score and audio elements are equally well-represented, and mixed nicely with dialog, which is clean, clear, and crisp. With dimensionality and placement working overtime, the sonic experience is immersive and surprising.

Extras:
This 2-disc set (Blu-ray and DVD) comes with a nice box-full of extras, new and older. A Making-Of Featurette; Dare To Be Square (33-minutes) appears, along with other Original Featurettes (about 15 minutes worth) and the original Commentary Track from Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi. All are detailed, thoughtful, informative and fun. If you hadn't added this to your collection, these extras alone would be worth it, but you get several new extras as well, including Feature-Length Storyboards, which are more like digital animatics, but great for animation scholars nonetheless. The other new "Inside Laika" extras include Discovering the Characters with never-before-seen Test Footage (awesome) that is about 9-minutes-worth, and Revisiting the Puppets which takes about a minute-and-a-half each to talk about the 6 main characters. Lastly, there are plenty of new Character, Concept Art, and Behind-The-Scenes Photo Galleries to explore.

Final Thoughts:
Stop-motion is like the cheese so loved by nearly everyone in Cheesebridge. It's a little something of an acquired taste, not as easy to penetrate as simple cell animation. As cheese takes forever to create, so it is with stop-motion, a way to tell a visual tale in the most arduous, idiosyncratic way possible. The results, however, can be deep, complex, and incredibly satisfying. Such is The Boxtrolls, a relatively simple morality tale painstaking in production (for instance one 56-second shot took an animator 4 months to create). Full of enrapturing visuals, sly-style, and fantastic performances, The Boxtrolls is a top-notch movie for kids of all ages, and this extras-laden edition is Highly Recommended.

www.kurtdahlke.com

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C O N T E N T

V I D E O

A U D I O

E X T R A S

R E P L A Y

A D V I C E
Highly Recommended

E - M A I L
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