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THE BOXTROLLS (review)

boxtrolls_ver13THE BOXTROLLS
Written by Irena Brignull and Adam Pava
Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
Voices by Ben Kingsley, Elle Fanning and Isaac Hempstead Wright

Eggs: Cheese, hats, boxes, they don’t make you. You make you.

WTF. I apologize for being so crass but seriously, THE BOXTROLLS, what the F was that? Leave it to the folks at Laika, the stop motion animation company behind darker family fare, like CORALINE and PARANORMAN, to unleash a film this bizarre upon the impressionable minds of today’s youth. This isn’t to say that it isn’t enjoyable; as bewildering as it is, THE BOXTROLLS is a captivating experience that is both devious and delightful. It’s just so weird, in a good way, I guess. Good luck to all the parents out there who have to make sense of this one to their kids after the movie is over!

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Allow me to explain, or attempt to anyway. In what I can only assume is somewhere in Europe, sometime in the 19th century, there is a village that stands upon a steep mountain. If you live at the top of the mountain, then you get to wear a white hat and you rule over everything, including the village’s supply of cheese, which is so dear to the people here that procuring more of it is more important to them then a new children’s hospital. If you live at the bottom, then you wear a red hat and you are responsible for the extermination of the village’s number one enemy, the Boxtrolls. There are many people who live in between the top and bottom, and who don’t wear hats at all, but as the film doesn’t really address this in any concrete fashion, nor will I. More importantly, the Boxtrolls live underground and, according to lore, ravage the village at night in search of babies they can bring back to their camp and feast upon. As with most lore, this is wildly untrue; Boxtrolls are in fact simply trolls who live in boxes they can collapse their bodies into. They can’t speak any discernable language and they are construction experts; hence the reason they pillage the streets at night for stolen parts they make stuff with. (Don’t ask me what kind of stuff they make; the film doesn’t bother explaining that either.) They may have stolen a baby once but they certainly didn’t eat him.

boxtrolls-teaser3

Now, I’ve never done acid before, but I feel like now that I’ve seen THE BOXTROLLS, I’ll never have to. All this insanity is what makes the film so impossible to look away from though. Well, that and the always beautiful stop motion work from the Laika people, as well as the incredible voice work across the board, including standout turns from Ben Kingsley as the head exterminator (and main villain) and Elle Fanning, as the daughter of the big (white) hat in town, who is as feisty as they come. As we watch her help a young boy named Eggs (Game of Throne’s Isaac Hempstead Wright) fight to get people to see the Boxtrolls for the lovely creatures they are, instead of the horrible monsters everyone has always believed them to be, we are immersed in a tale of grandiose proportions that all the same features a simple message. We needn’t hide ourselves in boxes or behind hats or from the world around us. We need only be ourselves if we want people to see us for who we really are. This is a lesson I know people struggle with far into their adulthood. If kids can start learning this lesson through films as exciting and as mind expanding as THE BOXTROLLS, then the future looks a whole lot brighter and whole lot more accepting.

4 sheep

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How many sheep would you give The Boxtrolls?

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