The Boxtrolls

The Boxtrolls song- "Some Kids" by Loch Lomond

The Boxtrolls

Directors: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi

Writers: Irena Brignull, Adam Pava, Alan Snow

Voice Cast: Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, Nika Futterman, Pat Fraley, Fred Tatasciore, Max Mitchell, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Maurice LaMarche, James Urbaniak, Brian George, Toni Collette, Simon Pegg, Lori Tritel, Laraine Newman, Reckless Jack

Synopsis: A young orphaned boy raised by underground cave-dwelling trash collectors tries to save his friends from an evil exterminator. Based on the children's novel 'Here Be Monsters' by Alan Snow.

MPAA Rating: Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor

Stevennix2001's Rating:

8 / 10

Pros:

- Great animation. Some of the best stop motion animation that you'll ever find on the big screen.

- Voice Acting was decent.

- Jokes were funny.

- Some of the characters are colorful and interesting.

- Great character designs

- After credit scene was interesting, and makes you appreciate the art of stop motion even more.

- Great moral about how we shouldn't judge others based on appearances and hearsay. Plus, it shows kids that not all families have to be the same.

- Well balanced script.

- Interesting concept to continue to push members of the LBGT community into an animated feature for families and kids.

- Story still offers a few surprising plot twists to keep it interesting; in spite of being predictable in certain areas.

- Cinematography was great

- 3-d effects were great.

Cons:


- Eggs isn't written particularly well, as he lacks any kind of definitive personality.

- The fact that Eggs can speak English perfectly makes little to no sense, but it's a movie, so you can't expect too much realism.

- The dimwitted henchmen are generic stereotypes.


It's hip to be square!

"The Boxtrolls" may not be the best animated feature of this year, but it's certainly one of the more unique ones out there. In an era where Pixar and Dreamworks continue to dominate the animated film industry, it seems Laika is starting to emerge as the animation studio that produces bold concepts that most studios wouldn't dare feature.

In "ParaNorman", Laika was bold enough to introduce an openly gay character in it's animated feature. It's quite a feat considering that Hollywood typically doesn't produce openly gay characters in cartoons geared towards children and families. Sure, you might have characters that people might think are possibly gay like the genie from "Aladdin", but it's never confirmed what the genie's true sexuality is. And the last time I checked, Disney hasn't openly confirmed or denied the genie's true sexuality either. Whereas Laika, they didn't beat around the bush about things. No, they flat out state in "ParaNorman" that this character is openly gay. A controversial and questionable move on their part, from a marketing perspective.

But, Laika not only pulled it off well in "ParaNorman", but they managed to do it in such a way that it didn't detract from the overall story. If anything, the openly gay character's sexuality wasn't even revealed until the very end of the feature, as part of a running gag. This move allowed the audience to get to know the character, without him being defined purely on his sexuality, but rather who he was as a person. This was a bold move, and it's one that I'm surprised Laika didn't suffer a lot of heat for.

However, I'm glad it worked out because it shows that we're evolving more as a society. Although I doubt "ParaNorman" will inspire other animation studios to create more openly gay characters in their movies, but who's to say what will happen a few years from now if Laika continues to endure success? After all, Hollywood is a bit of a copycat industry, so you never know.

In this film, there's no gay characters per say, but there's an antagonist that's a transvestite in the movie. His sexual preference is never fully exposed, but he does flirt with a lot of other guys while dressing up as a woman. Hardly original considering Warner Bros. already did something similar to that with their infamous "Bugs Bunny" character. Anyone remember when Bugs Bunny tried to seduce Elmer Fudd those few times dressed up as a girl?

However, it's refreshing to see Laika take such bold steps to incorporate people from the LBGT community. Heck, it's even mentioned in one of the songs for the film about how some children will have a mother and a father, or they could have two parents of the same gender. It's a unique song entitled "Some Kids" by Loch Lomond. And, it seems to fit in with Laika's style of liberal thinking as far as pushing the boundaries of family entertainment. Plus, it shows kids that not all families have to be the same. Some kids won't have parents. Some kids might only have siblings, while others may grow up being raised by their grandparents. It's a nice moral to teach to kids that I wish more animated features would teach. But does that mean "Boxtrolls" is worth seeing?

Well, let's get into that now. The film centers around a young boy named Eggs, who was allegedly abandoned as a baby, due to certain dire circumstances. And, he was raised by the boxtrolls. Very little is known about these strange creatures, but they're hated and feared throughout the town. Many of the towns' citizens spread wild stories about them being these despicable monsters that feed on human flesh, and sneak around throughout the night. Heck, the main antagonist of the film makes a living off catching those little bastards, and allegedly killing them.

But are they really the blood thirsty and flesh eating monsters that they're made out to be? Or could they be something else entirely? Like "Beauty and the Beast" and "Shrek", "Boxtrolls" teaches children the moral about how we shouldn't judge others solely based on appearances and rumors. It's a great lesson to preach to kids, and it works well here, as it serves as a great allegory for any form of prejudice in society.

Granted, the story can be a bit predictable at times, but it still has quite a few surprises to keep audiences guessing. As far as animation goes, I have to say this features some of the best stop motion animation that I've ever seen.

Everything from the action sequences to the facial expressions of the characters were defined beautifully. You can tell the animators paid a lot of attention to detail; especially when it came to the main antagonist and his allergic reactions to cheeses. In fact, there's even a funny end credit scene that alludes to how much hard work stop motion requires; which makes you grow a deep admiration for this style of animation.

However, that's not to say the movie is perfect by any means either. Although the story is written well along with some great innovative concepts, some of the characters fall a bit flat. The main protagonist, Eggs, seems like a one dimensional stereotype with little to no personality. Sure, he has a great back story that's filled with tragedy that drives the film, but the character himself isn't that interesting on his own. Throughout the movie, he's essentially the "straight man" that guides us through this wacky world of colorful characters; similar to what we saw in "Nightmare Before Christmas."

In that particular film, it can be argued that Sally was the "straight man" character in a sense that she was the sane rational one for the audience to identify with, while seeing her surrounded by colorful characters. Yet even though she was the "straight man", we still saw characteristics of her personality that helped define her as a character. One could easily describe her character as being supportive, sweet, affectionate, and caring. Granted, she wasn't the best character in that particular movie, but you could at least define her.

Whereas Eggs in "Boxtrolls", there's literally nothing you could say that would define him as a character. This is one of the problems with "The Boxtrolls" that keeps it from being a great movie.

And to make matters worse, the fact that he speaks perfect English makes no sense. Throughout the film, it's clearly established that Eggs was a human raised by the Boxtrolls, since he was a baby. And given how little the Boxtrolls interact with the humans, it doesn't seem likely that Eggs would even know how to speak English. Sure, he might pick up on a few words, or even learn enough to understand it. However, if he's primarily around Boxtrolls all the time, then shouldn't he be speaking in their language? Not ours.

Did Laika studios think kids would be too lazy to read subtitles if Eggs spoke in the boxtroll's language? I mean it worked in Disney's animated "Tarzan." Whenever he had to interact with the other apes around humans, Disney wasn't too shy about using subtitles to separate the languages, and it was still a moderately successful film.

Or for that matter, did they think that audiences wouldn't be able to connect with Eggs if they couldn't understand what he was saying? If that's the case, then shouldn't another animated classic like "Wall-E" prove otherwise? He didn't even speak at all in that movie, but you still felt what he was going through.

But then again, it might have slowed down the story for them to explain why Eggs can speak English perfectly, so I guess we can let that one slide.

As for the dimwitted henchmen of the film, I'll admit they were rather funny. In fact, all the jokes throughout this movie work rather well. However, like all animated features geared towards families, that's all the dimwitted henchmen are. Just comedic foils for the film to exploit. Hardly any real depth to them; outside of what happens to them at the end. And even then, they're still the same moronic dimwits. Not that it's a bad thing, but it hardly makes them original either.

The animation alone makes "The Boxtrolls" worthy to be nominated for next year's Academy Awards. Plus, it features a great story about prejudices in society, and how all families are different. It's a great moral to teach kids, and it's executed well here.

Overall, I wouldn't say "The Boxtrolls" is close to being the best animated movie of this year, but it's worth checking out.

© 2014 Steven Escareno

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