Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Boxtrolls: Laika Gets Square
are total squares, but good guys usually are. The question is whether these subterranean
tinkerers can change their nature. They will have to if they hope to survive a
rogue exterminator in Graham Annable & Anthony Stacchi’s The Boxtrolls (trailer here), the latest stop-motion
feature from the Laika animation studio, which opens this Friday in New York.
humans live above, in vaguely Victorian Chessebridge, while the Boxtrolls live
in the tunnels below, demonized by the ignorant people above. Only venturing up
at nights, the preternaturally handy Boxtrolls survive fixing up cast-off items
and scavenging from the garbage. Unfortunately, their numbers are dwindling
ever since the Dickensian Archibald Snatcher declared war on the Boxtrolls in
hopes of joining the White Hats, Cheesebridge’s ruling elite.
confronted by humans, the Boxtrolls instinctively play possum, retracting their
heads and limbs into their boxes, turtle-like. Eggs is the exception. His body
does not work the same way, because he is actually a human boy adopted as an
infant by the gentle Boxtrolls. Despite their nurturing, he is still hardwired
slightly differently. To avoid extinction, the other Boxtrolls will have to
become more like Eggs, before Snatcher finishes his grim business.
there is a genocide theme running through Boxtrolls,
which is always fun stuff in children’s film. Frankly, the treatment is
probably too heavy-handed for parents who try to shelter their children and
presented too glibly and off-handedly for those who like to challenge their
kids. Tonally, the Boxtrolls is just
the artistry of the Laika animators is undeniably. The expressiveness of the
figures and the richly realized details of their world are quite impressive. It
is a shame a little bit more effort was not dedicated to the story, loosely
adapted from Alan Snow’s Here Be
Monsters! Just once it would be nice to see the adults recognize the
glaringly obvious merit of their young ones’ warnings, especially for a total
creep like Snatcher, but that will not be happening this time around.
Ironically, some of the cleverest bits in Boxtrolls come towards the end, so if
you go, stick with it. As is often the case, the 3D has its moments, but
probably is not worth the surcharge. If you appreciate the art of animation
than it is quite a feast, but as a discrete film, it is not the most well
balanced meal. If animation is bacon, consider it Adkins-friendly. Possibly too
intense for small tykes, The Boxtrolls is
recommended for stop-motion fans when it opens this Friday (9/26) in a variety
of New York theaters, including the AMC Empire.
Labels: Animated films, Laika