I keep hoping for more animated films that break away from the Disney tradition, that are more artistic and profound than cute and funny. I envision films like those from Studio Ghibli, animated so beautifully whose stories make you expand your mind. And then there’s The Boxtrolls, which I admit does break away from the Disney tradition, because it is far from cute…and oftentimes far from funny. Be careful what you wish for.
The Boxtrolls means well. In a bourgeois town, there is a huge divide between the aristocrats and the boxtrolls, little ogres who wear boxes around their torsos and live underground. While being strange and borderline disgusting, they are endearing and live their own lives, decorating their lair with garbage and eating bugs. The entire town thinks, though, that they are flesh-eating monsters who will come into their homes in the night and kill them. You can guess that by the end of the movie, they will realize that the boxtrolls are friendly and harmless.
The movie starts off slowly. It introduces the Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), who is a wretched man with misaligned teeth. His biggest desire is to be part of the white-hat club, the most respected of men in the town. He strives to exterminate all boxtrolls, so he can earn a place in that prestigious club. The film introduces this despicable character, and then spends a long time showing the boxtrolls’ domain. They don’t speak English, so they just grunt at each other. They do become endearing, but it is a test of patience more than pleasant film-watching to break through the exposition.
The action does pick up later, but the grotesquerie of the film is too overbearing for the film’s overall charm. While I want for animated films that are not necessarily made for children, this film may end up scaring or disturbing children…and it may disturb their parents, too. The animation is beautifully made. It’s a stop-animation film, and the credits show a little insight into the creation of the animation, but it isn’t all that pleasant to watch. It has all the oddities of a Tim Burton film without any of the charm.
After seeing The Boxtrolls, I’m very surprised that The Lego Movie was not nominated for the Academy Award. They were certainly robbed. Even though The Boxtrolls boasts intricate skills in its animation, The Lego Movie, overall, is sharp, clever, and most importantly: fun!