Film & TV

The Boxtrolls – DVD Review

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Based on Alan Snow’s novel ‘Here be Monsters’, this misfit fairy-tale from the creators of ‘Coraline’ and ‘Paranorman’ sees a heart-warming story played out in a gritty and enchanting realm.

The story follows a young orphan named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), who, after the murder of his parents, is taken in by the box-wearing-trolls to reside in their lair beneath the quirky cobbled Victorian streets of Cheesebridge; only to come out at night to scour the city’s narrow winding alleyways bin-diving for odds and ends.

Facing greedy human villains with caricature faces just as hard (if not harder) to look at than their own, the trolls are fighting to exist. The cruel and corrupt Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), in hopes of getting in with the cheese-obsessed super-elite and earning a place amongst them with a coveted ‘White Hat’, tarnishes the troll’s reputation with propaganda and promises to eradicate them from Cheesebridge.  

Once Archibald has spun his lies, he joins his gullible cronies (Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade and Tracey Morgan) and sets out to brutally bag each Boxtroll one by one. However, his wicked plan is soon foiled when Winnie (Elle Fanning), the daughter of Cheesebridge’s very own cheese-sniffing Lord Portely-Rind, is driven by her curiosity (and blood-thirst!) to follow young Eggs into the unknown world of the Boxtrolls.

Upon discovering that the trolls are timid, loving and compassionate creatures, Winnie sets out with Eggs to unveil the true intentions of the evil and corrupt Archibald Snatcher, forcing Eggs to transform himself from a cave-dwelling critter into a classy young buck.

The gritty and raw texture achieved by the animators at Laika gives The Boxtrolls a rough edge rarely seen in children’s films and although the film pushes the gross-out factor with crude gags, it remains charming, authentic and, above all, laugh-out-loud funny.

As with most great children’s movies, The Boxtrolls is definitely a film for both kids and parents – with layers running throughout the film that will have the whole audience laughing. Kids should appreciate the super-eccentric animation of the characters; Ben Kingsley’s unsettlingly natural performance of Archibald Snatcher is sure to get their hearts going and his gormless sidekicks will no doubt raise a laugh.

In terms of the characters, adults will enjoy the brilliant mockery of the snooty upper class and the irony of a culture that holds itself to the highest standards while making embarrassing mistakes. It would be nice to get a better understanding of the trolls themselves in the film, but their loveable nature and helpfulness makes them easy to root for.

Overall, The Boxtrolls works as an intriguing and darkly fun film, teaching us that there’s no such thing as a “normal” family, and that having wealth and fortune doesn’t necessarily equate to being a decent or even nice person.

Kids may also pick up on the subtler message of what it means to be a father. Winnie’s father, with all is riches, is never good to her; he ignores her, prizes his status in society above her, and is often embarrassed by her presence around his peers.

The Boxtrolls, although unconventional and downright strange to look at, have shown Eggs all the love and compassion a child needs, they provide for him with what little they have, making sacrifices and risking capture to keep him happy. As Winnie puts it – “Um… well… a father is the one who raises you… looks after you. Loves you.”

Quirky and offbeat, The Boxtrolls delivers entertainment for all ages.

The Boxtrolls is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.