The mark of a great film is the ability to watch it over and over again, while discovering something new upon each viewing without losing any entertainment value. That trait alone would put Laika’s The Boxtrolls squarely in the “great film” category. Add in the stellar voice cast, the beautifully creative and imaginative fantasy world, and the family-friendly yet substantive story, and you’ve got one of the best animated movies in recent history. If you happened to miss The Boxtrolls in theaters, you’re in luck because the Blu-ray brings Laika’s stop-motion magic into your living room. As a bonus, this movie’s home version packs in plenty of extras that are every bit as entertaining and mind-blowing as the feature film itself.
Hit the jump for The Boxtrolls Blu-ray review.
Our own Matt Goldberg posted a solid and positive review of The Boxtrolls, a film which has appeared on not only the list of the 2015 Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature Film, but also Perri Nemiroff’s Top 10 Films of 2014, which is equally prestigious. It’s a feature that deserves every bit of praise it receives, and moreso. Here’s why.
Based on a portion of Alan Snow’s fantasy novel, “Here Be Monsters!,” The Boxtrolls takes place in the fictional town of Cheesebridge. Here, the ruling elite are aristocrats known as White Hats who live in the upper levels of the town, hosting balls and reveling in their love of cheese. Ordinary townsfolk live in the lower levels, the somewhat ostracized Red Hats among them. Beneath all the residences and streets of Cheesebridge live the title characters, bright-eyed trolls who dress themselves in various boxes they find around town during their nightly excursions. Though the Boxtrolls are at first presented as vicious creatures who steal human babies in order to consume them, they’re soon shown to be curious and shy beings who keep to themselves and populate their underground world with bits and bobs pilfered from the upper world.
The main plot of The Boxtrolls revolves around two central characters. The first is Eggs, a human boy who ended up in the lair of the Boxtrolls as a baby. He eventually realizes his true nature as a human boy, just in time to save his adoptive family from the villainous machinations of the Red Hat leader, Archibald Snatcher. This antagonistic character has one goal: to destroy all the Boxtrolls in order to earn himself a White Hat and force his way into the aristocracy.
Previous reviews have focused on the dangers of succumbing to propaganda, the ease of becoming the “bad guy” while performing the actions of a supposed “good guy,” and the unfair treatment of outsiders. I chose, however, to focus on Laika’s plot point of ineffectual fathers. While it’s not exactly subtle, this theme is easy to get lost amidst the film’s excellent action and mind-blowing animation. There are fathers who turn a blind eye and ear to their children in favor of their own ambitions, fathers who abandon their children (though perhaps through no fault of their own) and descend into madness, and even metaphorical fathers who convince their children that their actions are for the greater good, even when its actually the most evil behavior imaginable.
A discussion of The Boxtrolls absolutely must include a focus on Laika’s absolutely insane level of detail and smoothness of their stop-motion animation. It’s only been a few short years from Coraline to ParaNorman to The Boxtrolls, but the achievements in animation are generational. For the majority of the film, you’ll forget that every moment of it is shot frame by frame, with animators adjusting their puppets on micro levels for each shot. For a lot more on the film, be sure to check out my set visit, with “101 Things to Know about The Boxtrolls.” The technology is amazing and it’s gotten to the point that you almost don’t want to know the practical effects behind the movie magic. However, if you really want to know about the behind-the-scenes stuff, then you’ll be happy to know that the Blu-rays Extras will provide just that.
Preliminary Animatic Sequences:
- Six animatic sequences with optional commentary from directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
Dare to Be Square: Behind the Scenes of The Boxtrolls:
- Five behind-the-scenes sequences including voice work, puppetry, and highlights of the film’s most challenging animation sequences
- Five featurettes that take an up-close-and-personal look at every step of the process that brought The Boxtrolls to life
Feature Commentary with Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi