Take a Drink: every time Archibald’s henchmen contemplate if they are good or evil.
Take a Drink: every time Archibald whines about a White Hat.
Take a Drink: every time Archibald has a reaction to cheese
Take a Drink: every time the boxtrolls hide in their boxes out of fear.
Take a Drink: every time you’re pretty sure Lord Portly-Rind has tried to bed Frou Frou
Do a Shot: every someone gets bitten
Take a Drink: for every cheese that’s identified.
By: The Cinephiliac (Three Beers) –
When I was a kid, I obsessively watched television like it was my job. One of my favorite shows at the time, Rocko’s Modern Life, featured an episode about corporations and pollution. In it, our lead wallaby Rocko notices his town is involved in a spring cleaning musical (he isn’t involved because he never took notice of the rehearsal fliers.) The residents of O-Town sing all day about the importance of recycling and how corporate greed is a cancer of society promoting pollution. To this day I can sing almost every song featured in that episode and the message it espoused stuck with me over all of these years—which probably explains why I’m a tree hugging, anti-establishment hippie now.
Thanks Rocko, I owe you big time!
The Boxtrolls would like to have this same effect on its young audiences. Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi’s flawless stop-motion animated tale focuses on the town of Cheesebridge and their presumed Boxtroll problem. After a boy is supposedly kidnapped by Boxtrolls, a pot-bellied, gutter punk in search of power, Archibald Snatcher, strikes up a deal with the city council that if he captures all the Boxtrolls, he too can earn the prestigious White Hat worn by the most elite of the city. While Snatcher spreads rumors across town prompting fear of evil, flesh-eating Boxtrolls over the next decade, the Boxtrolls themselves are raising the lost boy underground in a utopia in which the natural builders invent, expand, and live happily. That is until their scavenging above grounds causes their numbers to dwindle, leaving the now 10-year-old boy troll known as Eggs to assimilate himself into the greedy human world to fight for the family of Boxtrolls he loves.
Stop motion will always have a way of bringing detailed life to the world creates. The very nature of stop motion animation allows this. The Boxtrolls is besieged with the meticulous design of characters, even their accessories becomes noticeable through stop motion, as do details in background, scenery, and special effects, which inspires oohs and ahhs. The Boxtrolls is state of the art in the realm of stop motion, taking the genre of animation one step further in detailed design.
Characters are defined not only by their actions, but in their very makeup. Archibald Snatcher is a portly man, with a hilariously disproportional build, while the high-brow cheese aficionado, Lord Portley-Rind, is lathered in shades of pale white and blue which are void of warmth, a telling sentiment of his character and his relationship with his Winnie. Many characters, including the boxtrolls themselves, possess a grotesque likeness complete with damaged, crooked teeth, dirty fingers, and ragged clothing. Almost everything in town is uneven; steps, streets, and houses possess an off-kilter, almost barbaric view of the century from which the film’s time frame is inspired. Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi’s stunning direction also gives way to incredibly impressive shots and action sequences. POV shots are frequently used throughout the film, and its self-aware brand of humor makes for some hilarious bits.
The world in The Boxtrolls is about as a crooked as the last few presidencies. Hey-o!
Though filled with cute little grotesque trolls and really good moments of physical humor, the entirety of The Boxtrolls is a constant reminder that this isn’t your average children’s film. Parents who bring their children or adults looking to get a bit loose and watch a lighthearted, feel-good tale be warned: The Boxtrolls is not that. It’s pretty heavy stuff, arguably too heavy for what it is. I respect and admire The Boxtrolls’ theme and overall message, however. It’s a kid’s film that focuses on human greed, patriarchy, capitalism, prejudice, and all the other evils of humanity. There are scenes in which we see Boxtrolls beaten by sticks and kept as slaves. A henchman of Snatcher revels in tormenting the petrified Boxtrolls with his canned stick and by stomping on boxes. It’s even revealed that a character is chained and hung upside down for over ten years, introducing kids in the audience to images of torture.
A deleted scene of The Boxtrolls includes Lynndie England standing on a naked troll’s back.
The development of the story is pretty poor. Characters exist to achieve their assigned duty and keep the film moving so the end has a chance to even slightly make sense. Snatcher is given no background or history as to who he is and why he feels the need to be a part of group of men who lack respect for him and eat the one thing he’s deathly allergic too. It’s also rather strange that Eggs worries about being a boy and becomes engrossed with the idea of having a father when these concepts were only just introduced to him by an outsider. And though they try to redeem the bratty, morbid Winnie, she’s just not given any passions or real childlike qualities to adore or even like. She is defined by her obsession with Boxtrolls, like Snatcher is defined by his obsession with irrational greed.
Archibald Snatcher… he’s bald and he snatches Boxtrolls– now I get it!
On one hand, The Boxtrolls is a bit too preachy and self-aware to come off as a genuine kid’s film. Yet, on the other, its mockery of elitism and government is a brave, humorous portrayal. I’m all for subversive art with a message. In fact, I personally think all films should have a higher purpose within their stories. But, I also realize that you have to pick your battles. A kid’s movie with a deeper message against elitists and nepotism is unwarranted because these themes are above a child’s head. The theater I sat in had toddlers and adolescents probably no older than 10. I don’t remember learning or comprehending American government until 12, and even then I had very little inkling of the false concept of freedom and equality that our capitalist system runs under the guise of democracy.
Though The Boxtrolls may impress some audacious, intelligent adolescent in the audience, the biggest difference between that Rocko’s Modern Life episode I mentioned earlier is that Rocko knew its audience. Creator Joe Murray made a 22-minute episode surrounding a message that included music and comedy as well as showcasing why corporate creed is bad and how polluting affects us all. The Boxtrolls, on the other hand, has all the right intentions, but its message is a little too complex and muddled in its lack of focus and development. That doesn’t mean it’s not an enjoyable film, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.