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dir Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi
scr Irena Brignull, Adam Pava
prd David Bleiman Ichioka, Travis Knight
with Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Richard Ayoade, Nick Frost, Tracy Morgan, Simon Pegg, Toni Collette, Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, James Urbaniak
release UK 12.Sep.14, US 26.Sep.14
14/US Laika 1h37
Going underground: Eggs and his troll family
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Stunning stop-motion visuals, a rollicking story and rambunctious characters combine top make this a fiercely original animated adventure. It's also genuinely good fun, keeping the audience laughing even when the story turns darkly intense, all while quietly making an important point about communal paranoia.
Ten years after a baby was kidnapped by the nighttime-scavenging Boxtrolls, the mythology about their violent ways has grown exponentially. The red-hatted Snatcher (voiced by Kingsley) and his assistants (Ayoade, Frost and Morgan) are on a mission to exterminate Boxtrolls and earn white hats, so they can join Lord Portley-Rind (Harris) in his nightly cheese feast. Then Portley-Rind's daughter Winnie (Fanning) spots a boy among the trolls: Eggs (Hempstead Wright) is actually that kidnapped baby. And the Boxtrolls aren't the villains everyone thinks they are. But will the grown-ups listen?
Everything on-screen is in constant motion, as the Boxtrolls playfully bustle about their business and entertain each other in their cluttered underground cavern, speaking in Minion-like gibberish. Eggs can understand it, having been raised by Fish (Baker) and his hilariously greedy sidekick Shoe (Blum). Named for the original contents of their boxes, the Boxtrolls are even more paranoid than the villagers above ground, hiding in their boxes until any threat passes. Clearly they need to learn to take action.
So of course, one of the film's main themes involves leaving the comforts of home and facing the truth about the world around you, rather than just accepting the propaganda and lies that come at you. These things have huge resonance for anyone who lives in a society that is stoked by fear of foreigners, terrorists and people who are different in some way. Thankfully, the filmmakers leave these themes lingering in the background as they get on with the frenetic adventure.
The starry actors disappear into their characters, an energetically manic bunch of people and trolls who burst with individual personality traits. Each is flawed in some way, including Eggs and Winnie, which makes them thoroughly endearing. And Kingsley has the best role as a man obsessed with the trappings of privilege. His wildly over-the-top final solution is a bit much, but the filmmakers balance it with quiet humanity and inspired silliness (including a local celebrity drag queen). Then a gorgeously shot closing-credits sequence reminds us just how complex this kind of filmmaking is, while cheekily pondering the meaning of life.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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