Bargain Bin Review - The Boxtrolls
For "Bargain Bin" I will review a film that I haven't seen that I literally picked up from the bargain bin. This is a good opportunity for me to catch up on films that for some reason I missed. Just like my regular reviews; there will be bad ones, there will be good ones and there will be a whole bunch of in-betweens. This column is also a good opportunity to remove myself from the hype machine. These films will be viewed through fresh and hopefully unbiased eyes.
In honor of the greatness that is Kubo and the Two Strings, I took it upon myself to purchase the single Laika film I haven't seen yet; The Boxtrolls. Whereas Kubo has substance to match its style, The Boxtrolls is, unfortunately, lacking in the latter category. That's not to say that this is a bad film in any way, it still has some degree of heart, it just doesn't hit any emotional notes in the way that some of Laika's other films have.
The Boxtrolls is about an infant who is left alone and adopted by boxtrolls (trolls that literally wear boxes) that live underneath a hustling and bustling city on a mountain. The townspeople believe the boxtrolls to be a threat, when in fact they are only misunderstood. The boy, who the trolls named "Eggs" due to the writing on the box he wears, sets out to rescue his boxtroll friends as more and more of them are captured by villains who are tasked with ridding the city of boxtrolls.
I was immediately blown away by the craftsmanship on display in this film. I really don't know how Laika does it. Kubo and the Two Strings still looks better than this film, but Kubo is literally the best-of-the-best, so that's not really a knock against Boxtrolls. I love the British steam-punk vibe of this film, and it has an old-fashioned style of humor to match that theme. So, from a stylistic standpoint, The Boxtrolls is a definite winner.
The Boxtrolls loses points with its story though, which consists more of slapstick scenarios and gimmicks rather than actual plot developments. Sure, there's the framework of a very simplistic story about family, accepting who you really are and finding your identity, but it doesn't go much further than that.
Despite not having too much of a plot to get invested in, the characters are quite enjoyable to watch. I especially enjoyed the mustache-twirling villain, Archibald Penelope Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) who had a propensity for eating upper-class cheese, even though he was strongly allergic to it. I also liked the main protagonist, Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), who put forth a convincing vocal performance that matched the character effectively.
This is a film that doesn't really make any bold statements or do anything revolutionary apart from the advancements in stop-motion on display. That's not to say that it's bad in any way, it just doesn't really serve any grand purpose. The Boxtrolls is a fun romp through an immensely detailed and seemingly living and breathing world. If you don't get anything out of the story here, you will still be able to admire the sheer amount of skill that went into making this film.
I picked up The Boxtrolls as part of a Laika three-film set for a little over twenty bucks that also included Coraline and Paranorman. While I would say that The Boxtrolls is probably my least favorite of their films, it still gets by on the charm of its characters and the beautiful craftsmanship on display in every single frame of the movie.
The Bargain Bin Budget
What I paid: $7
What I would have bought it for: $10