Starring the voice talents of and Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris and Nick Frost
Written by Adam Pava and Irena Brignull
Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacch
Running time 97 min
MPAA Rating PG
Selig Film Rating Matinee
When I was 13, I was obsessed with stop-motion animation, making monster opus after monster opus in the garage with my Super 8 camera. King Kong (1933) was my favorite film due to the efforts of Willis O’Brien who was the animator behind the scenes. His work still holds up as one of the greatest achievements of cinema. O’Brien’s protégée Ray Harryhausen made the Sinbad films, and they were also favorites of my youth.
With the advent of computers, the idea of stop motion animation is a bit of a nostalgic endeavor. Most animation is not done by the human hand but by behemoth counting beasts. In the last few years, there have been hybrids of the two styles in films such as The Pirates! The latest to attempt this is the Laika Entertainment film The Box Trolls.
The story has the feeling of a fairy tale. A young boy is thought to be killed by a mysterious group of sewer dwellers known as Box Trolls. Everyone in the town lives in abject fear of the evil nuisance. The villager quakes in fear with even the mention of the box trolls.
Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) is a red hat wearing exterminator tasked to rid the land of the box trolls. He believes that elimination the menace town would get him in the higher class, those who eat cheese and wear white hats.
Snatcher has a trio of henchmen who also wear red hats. Some times they pine philosophically while working with Snatcher. They all believe that they are the good guys but still question their existence in society.
The young boy did not die but fell into the sewers. He is taken in by the box trolls and is given the name Eggs. This is due to the fact that he wears a box titled ‘Eggs’. All of the Box Trolls are named after the boxes they inhabit so we get as surnames Fragile, Fish and Oil Can. They also hide like turtles in their boxes.
Snatcher has been capturing some of the box trolls in order to build a sinister machine. Eggs befriends a young girl (Elle Fanning) who believes that the box trolls are evil. She finds what Eggs knows—the box trolls are benevolent and Snatcher is the evil one. Actually the Box Trolls are more like the minions from Despicable Me.
The film builds to a giant confrontation between the box trolls and Snatcher and everyone knows how this will end. It is a giant and loud battle royal that should amuse as much at it excites.
One of the most interesting parts of the film experience happens during the credits of the film. Two characters talk to each other while an animator moves around adjusting the puppets. It is both a behind-the-scenes moment and a demonstration of how painstakingly hard this type of animation is to bring to life.
This is a very British film, full of comedy along the lines of Monty Python or Black Adder. While some are off-put by the mirth from across the pond, I found the film charming, fascinating and thoroughly entertaining. The Box Trolls has many gems that should appeal to just about every demographic.
The animation team has made a film that is just mesmerizing to watch. Time and time again, one wonders exactly how they achieved the effects with what are basically puppets. These are brilliant artists at the top of their form.
The film is made by the same studio that crafted Coraline and ParaNorman. The Box Trolls is on par with those films but delivers a better overall entertainment. There have been great things from Laika Entertainment and even greater things in their future.