PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
In the European town of Cheesebridge, rumors abound that subterranean trolls known as Boxtrolls kidnap and kill young children. Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) strikes a deal with Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris), offering to exterminate every Boxtroll in exchange for membership in the White Hats, a group of cheese lovers led by Lord Portley-Rind that serves as the town council.
The Boxtrolls prove to be peaceful creatures, wearing cardboard boxes, who emerge from underground at night to scavenge through the trash for items they can use in their inventions. A baby boy named Eggs lives among them, cared for by a Boxtroll named Fish (Dee Bradley Baker). As he grows up over a period of ten years, Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) learns that the population slowly decreases due to being captured by Snatcher.
Lord Portley-Rind’s neglected daughter Winnie (Elle Fanning) grows frustrated at being ignored and throws his white hat out a window. Leaving the house to retrieve it, she sees Eggs rummaging through trash with two Boxtrolls. Snatcher and his men chase the trio and capture Fish. Devastated, Eggs puts together a disguise and sneaks back up to the surface to find him. Eggs emerges in the midst of an annual fair to commemorate the disappearance of the Trubshaw Baby eleven years earlier – presumably kidnapped and killed by Boxtrolls. Disgusted by the town’s inaccurate portrayal of the creatures, he follows Winnie away from the fair. She recognizes him as the boy she saw the previous night and directs him to Snatcher’s headquarters, an abandoned factory.
Sneaking into the factory, Eggs finds Fish locked in a cage and frees him. Meanwhile, Snatcher holds a cheese tasting with his men Mr. Gristle (Tracy Morgan), Mr. Trout (Nick Frost), and Mr. Pickles (Richard Ayoade) as preparation for becoming a White Hat, but proves ironically to be allergic to cheese, causing his entire body to swell. Eggs and Fish try to sneak out of the factory only to be caught by Mr. Gristle. Snatcher recognizes Eggs as the Trubshaw Baby and reveals that all the captured Boxtrolls are still alive and building a machine. Winnie overhears this exchange upon having followed Eggs to the factory. They and Fish escape from Snatcher and take shelter in the Boxtrolls’ underground cavern.
Winnie is surprised to learn the truth about the Boxtrolls, and convinces Eggs that he is not one of them. His father had given him to them as a baby in order to keep him safe from Snatcher. Winnie agrees to help Eggs tell Portley-Rind the truth. At a ball that night, Eggs narrowly avoids capture by a disguised Snatcher and inadvertently knocks a giant cheese wheel down the stairs so that it rolls into a river. Eggs announces himself to the crowd as the Trubshaw Baby, but no one believes him and Lord Portley-Rind throws him out in a fury over losing his beloved cheese.
Eggs returns to the cavern and tries to persuade the remaining Boxtrolls that they need to flee for their own safety. Snatcher digs into the cavern using his machine, captures the entire group, and takes them back to the factory. Eggs, imprisoned in a cage in the basement, awakens to find his real father Herbert Trubshaw (Simon Pegg) hanging upside down next to him when it turns out that he was held captive for years by Snatcher. He sees the Boxtrolls stacked in a crusher and begs them to run, but the crusher activates and flattens all the boxes.
Snatcher drives his machine to Lord Portley-Rind’s house, shows him the flattened boxes as proof of the Boxtrolls’ deaths, and demands Portley-Rind’s white hat once he kills the last one (actually Eggs dressed up as a Boxtroll). Winnie persuades Mr. Trout and Mr. Pickles to redeem themselves by not killing Eggs. The Boxtrolls suddenly arrive with Trubshaw, having sneaked out of their boxes just before the crusher activated, and free Eggs. An infuriated Snatcher tries to take Portley Rind’s hat by force, but Eggs, his father, and the Boxtrolls disable the machine. Eggs and Snatcher are thrown clear, hitting the giant cheese wheel as it is pulled out of the river, and Snatcher swells into a grotesque giant and forces Lord Portley-Rind to give up his hat. Snatcher triumphantly enters the cheese tasting room, but unconcerned about his allergy, explodes after taking one bite.
The townspeople no longer see the Boxtrolls as monsters and come to live peacefully with them. Winnie tells the tale of Snatcher’s end to a crowd of people, while Eggs and Fish drive off in one of his father’s contraptions
Is it me, or has this year been a little light on the family faire? What little there had been hasn’t exactly lit the box office on fire. Hopefully, The Boxtrolls will change that fact, or at least provide an alternative to the revenge flick that is The Equalizer and the horror-comedy Tusk (in the areas where it is still showing). Can this British kiddie flick charm enough adults to bring them back for more?
What is this about?
THE BOXTROLLS are a community of quirky, mischievous creatures who have lovingly raised an orphaned human boy named Eggs in the amazing cavernous home they’ve built beneath the streets of a city called Cheesebridge. The story is about a young orphaned boy raised by underground cave-dwelling trash collectors who tries to save his friends from an evil exterminator, the town’s villain, Archibald Snatcher. When Snatcher comes up with a plot to get rid of the Boxtrolls. Eggs decides to venture above ground and “into the light,” where he meets and teams up with fabulously feisty Winnie. Together, they devise a daring plan to save The BoxTrolls family.
What did I like?
Stop motion surprised. This is stop motion animation. If you are an avid reader of this blog, then you know how much I turn into a drooling fanboy when it comes to stop motion, so no need to say that I liked the fact that it is stop motion and not CG. However, there is something about the animation that I have to mention. About midway through the credits scene, two of the henchmen start talking and one of them says something along the lines of, “what if someone was controlling us?” The camera pans back and you can see one of the sculptor animators working on him. I found that to be totally awesome and I don’t believe anyone has ever done this before, at least outside of Rey Herryhausen documentaries or stop motion classes.
Trolls. The Boxtrolls don’t speak in anything more than grunts and random sounds, and yet they have just as much life in them as the humans, perhaps more. I didn’t catch on at first, but they are named for the kind of box they are wearing. For instance, one of them wears a box marked “Fragile”, thus his name is Fragile. As far as the personality of each is concerned, they show heart and innocence that makes you care for them, even perhaps shuddering when something nearly happens to them near the film’s end. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that it is life threatening for them.
Henchmen conflict. “Good always triumphs over evil.” “We’re the good guys, right?” These are a couple of conflicting thoughts that the henchmen, well 2 of them, wonder about as the film goes on and they commit more and more heinous acts toward the Boxtrolls and nearly kill some humans! We’ve all wondered about how henchmen join up, I’m sure. Before the Star Wars prequels, I wondered were all the Strom Troopers came from. This is the first time, though, that I can recall henchmen actually questioning what they are doing, even if they have apparently been tricked into thinking Boxtrolls are evil. It makes for some interesting conversation between the two and gives them character, rather than brainless yes men.
What didn’t I like?
Girl. The film is moving along at a nice pace, the audience is moving along at a nice pace and then BAM! We are introduced to an annoying little girl with a smart mouth and a penchant for death, apparently. For me, things would have been so much better without her, as she does nothing to make her forced entry into the goings on worthwhile. The best way I can describe her is when Arcee was brought in to the 80s Transformers cartoon. The only reason she existed was for the female fans. I believe this little girl exists for something similar, just so little girls can have a female presence on the screen.
Design. While I do love the animation of this film, I wasn’t too pleased with the design of the characters. These are some ugly human beings. The Boxtrolls actually look better. Now, when I say that, I am speaking from an attractiveness angle and not aesthetically. I know that British people are stereotypically known for having horrible teeth, but good grief! Also, the upper crust of this town sure didn’t look any different from those that lived in the slums. How is that?!? Think about Rango for a minute. The animals in there are horrible looking, yes, but remember that is a bit of a western and they have that dirty, dusty western look that many people had in westerns (unless they were a major character). The same kind of thought process should have been used with these people. It appears that this was set in the Victorian era, so make the people look like that, rather than sewer rats in nice clothes!
Importance of cheese. Cheese, oh wondrous cheese! I love cheese, be it by the slice, on a sandwich, toast, burger, or in block form, but I have nothing on the people in this town. Wow! They take cheese to a whole new level. Up until now, I thought the most cheese obsessed character was Monterey Jack from Chip & Dale’s Rescue Rangers, but he has nothing on out villain Archibald Sinister, who ironically has some kind of allergy to the stuff. What I find most appalling, though, is how cheese takes precedence over the hideous little girl, for the leader of the White Hat society, and apparent mayor of the town. Can we say problem?
When I first heard about The Boxtrolls, I thought it was going to be some light, fun flick, but this turned out to be far from the truth. This is a fairly dark film, but it has its cute moments. Recently, I rewatched Mary and Max, and it had the same tone, if you will. The voice cast is outstanding, though I couldn’t help but think of Moss from The IT Crowd everytime I heard Richard Ayoade’s voice. Both kids and adults will find something that appeals to them. In the theater I was in tonight, the little kids were cracking up through a lot of it, so there you go. Do I recommend this? Yes, very much so. It is most definitely worth a watch!
4 out of 5 stars