Movie review: ‘The Boxtrolls’ |

Movie review: ‘The Boxtrolls’

In this image released by Focus Features, a scene is shown from "The Boxtrolls."

"The Boxtrolls" is adapted from Alan Snow's children's book "Here Be Monsters!" With their darkly encircled eyes; round, pinchy faces and sturdy cardboard boxes worn like tortoise shells, the shy, diminutive boxtrolls strike the perfect balance between cuddly and grotesque. Question: Did Laika Studio release costumes for Halloween?

Mixing a bleak palette with splashes of muted color, this fable takes place both above ground in the surreal Edwardian town of Cheesebridge and beneath its cobbled streets. Underground, the boxtrolls eke out a contented, meager living by helping themselves to the town's refuse (especially the sort of shiny objects they covet with the excitement of a toddler determined to get hold of your keys).

Below; in chambers connected by tunnels, caves and lofts; the boxtrolls ride their homemade conveyances downward and use a vacuum tube system to convey themselves upward. They communicate mainly in grunts and gurgles, treating one another with respect and affection. At bedtime each draws his limbs inside his box, allowing the trolls to stack themselves into a cube. In this manner they sleep contentedly along with a young boy called Eggs, in honor of the box he wears.

Raised by musically inclined boxtroll Fish (yes, his box sports a faded fish) and unaware he is not a troll, Eggs lives happily on the troll diet of bugs and worms.

Meanwhile, up top, ambitious Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) is determined to join the ranks of the "White Hats," town bigwigs who feast on a variety of gourmet cheeses while debating whether to buy themselves a gigantic wheel of brie or build a children's hospital. In order to earn his way into their fold, Snatcher must rid the town of every last boxtroll. To that end he spends his nights piloting a steam-punk carriage equipped with a cage for captured trolls. Snatcher's minions consist of the philosophical ne'er-do-wells; Mr. Trout, Mr. Pickles and Mr. Gristle (Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade and Tracy Morgan, respectively; toting oversized butterfly nets and modified cork guns).

With his troll friends disappearing at an alarming rate, Eggs enlists the help of Winnie Portley-Rind (Elle Fanning), a wealthy, rebellious young girl in need of both a cause and a friend.

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Along with the whiz-bang, stop-and-go motion, the voice performances enchant, especially that spoken by Kingsley, who demonstrates his remarkable range.

Avoiding the pitfalls inherent to overly frenetic action and dull, instructive storytelling, "The Boxtrolls" settles for droll wit, nice details and the occasional action set piece. It trusts kids to understand the life lessons unfolding without further explanation.

A pleasure to behold, the film's calm, muted colors and frequent nighttime setting offer beleaguered parents a much-appreciated respite and the film studio a merchandising bonanza.



Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi

Voices of Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Simon Pegg, Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, Toni Collette

Rated PG, Animation, Family, 97 minutes