Whimsical ‘Boxtrolls’ Is Full Of Fun

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Whimsical ‘Boxtrolls’ Is Full Of Fun

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By Rick Bentley

The Fresno Bee


“The Boxtrolls” is an outlandishly funny tale brought to life through beautiful stop-animation photography.

The film combines Monty Python-style humor with the sense and sensibilities of Oliver Twist and is presented in a wonderfully creepy animated style. Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi found a way to make an up-tempo movie using a painfully slow style of moviemaking.

“The Boxtrolls” — loosely based on the book “Here Be Monsters!” by Alan Snow — follows Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Wright of “Game of Thrones”), a boy taken underground by the boytrolls. They get their names from the boxes they wear as clothing.

This underworld is all Eggs has known until a sinister force — creepy exterminator Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) — begins to threaten the extinction of the boxtrolls. Eggs turns to spunky topside dweller Winnie (Elle Fanning) to help him convince her snooty father the trolls are no danger.

On the most basic level, “The Boxtrolls” is a treat for the eyes — from the exaggerated features on the characters to the textured and detailed background. There’s even a Seussian quality to the way the trolls look and to the design of machinery in the city. The Boxtrolls aren’t nearly as entertaining as the Minions of “Despicable Me,” but they are a likable group.

There’s both slapstick humor and wry script writing by Irena Brignull and Adam Pava. It’s just as funny to see the upper crust of the town drooling over a massive block of cheese as it is realizing cheese is really a metaphor for any of the absurdities of life that drive people to do desperate things.

Many of the laughs are mined from the same kind of rapid, idiotic approach that made “Monty Python and the Flying Circus” so good. Don’t be surprised if you are laughing minutes later when a joke suddenly makes sense.

The production manages to combine the whimsical fun of a group of underground scavengers with serious issues about greed, social standing and family. These are heavyweight issues that hold up well through the film’s clever design.

A solid casting adds another level of fun. Not only is Kingsley appropriately sinister when voicing Snatcher, but his character’s turn in drag would make Dame Edna proud. Kingsley shows no hesitations with at wading into the enjoyable absurdities of this tale.

Surprisingly, Fanning manages to deliver a spot on English accent that never waivers — whether Winnie’s frustrated by the lack of attention she gets from her father or trying to teach Eggs some social graces. Shaking hands takes on an entirely new meaning the way Eggs does it.

This third film from the production studio Laika shows how far the company has grown since its initial offering of “Coraline” and the 2012 release “ParaNorman.” All of the visual and writing kinks have been eliminated, leaving this a tale that’s as delightful as it is wicked.


Grade: B-plus

Stars Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Simon Pegg.

Directed by Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

Rated PG for peril, rude humor

©2014 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)

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