‘The Boxtrolls’ is a bit macabre, but still delights

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Tuesday, September 23, 2014 4:52pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

One of the impressive things about “The Boxtrolls” is how quickly it establishes just what exactly boxtrolls are. It’s complicated: Boxtrolls are odd gnomelike creatures that live beneath the streets of Cheesebridge, living off the town’s rubbish and clothing themselves in discarded boxes.

Cheesebridge is a vertiginous 19th-century hamlet, apparently in England. This is key, because the film’s cheeky humor and dark satire is in a British vein that stretches from Monty Python to Wallace &Gromit.

The boxtrolls have raised an orphaned human boy, Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead Wright), from infancy. When the boxtrolls are targeted for destruction by an evil exterminator named Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), Eggs and his new human friend Winnie (Elle Fanning) must save the day.

Mr. Snatcher wants to join the town’s elite, the White Hats, who sit around in their mansions and eat all the cheese. Their leader is the clueless Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris), who’s partly responsible for Cheesebridge residents blaming everything on the boxtrolls.

The incredibly detailed 3D animation (a blend of stop-motion and computer) comes from Laika Studios, the people who made “Coraline” and “ParaNorman.” Like those movies, this one has a taste for the macabre that makes it closer to a pungent blue cheese than a pleasant gouda.

The designs and characters are reminiscent of the morbid subject matter of Roald Dahl, and I thought I detected an influence from “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol,” too. The film gets downright grotesque at times, especially when Snatcher’s cheese allergy causes his face to bloat in horrible bulges.

Grown-up viewers can enjoy the satire, including the evil minions (Nick Frost and Richard Ayoade) who believe they must actually be on the side of good. By the way, those two figure in an end-credits sequence that should not be missed.

The voice acting is very funny and the 3D is ingenious. The main knock here is that — like all movies now — there must be a big violent climax. It’s tiresome after all the clever work that has come before.

That aside, “The Boxtrolls” is very well done. It will be interesting, though, to see if kids respond to its dark world, which is crammed with hideous creatures, torture chambers, and boxtrolls who really aren’t very cuddly. This movie makes “Despicable Me” look like “Dumbo” by comparison.

“The Boxtrolls” (3 1/2 stars)

The boxtrolls are gnome-like creatures who live beneath the streets of Cheesebridge and must defend themselves against the town exterminator. This macabre but funny 3D animated film is very well done, with a strong vein of British humor, even if its morbid tone might be a bit much for little kids.

Rating: PG, for violence

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Life

Whidbey duo uses fencing to teach self-discipline, sportsmanship to youth

Bob Tearse and Joseph Kleinman are sharing their sword-fighting expertise with young people on south Whidbey Island.

Lily Gladstone poses at the premiere of the Hulu miniseries "Under the Bridge" at the DGA Theatre, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Mountlake Terrace’s Lily Gladstone plays cop in Hulu’s ‘Under the Bridge’

The true-crime drama started streaming Wednesday. It’s Gladstone’s first part since her star turn in “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

A giant Bigfoot creation made by Terry Carrigan, 60, at his home-based Skywater Studios on Sunday, April 14, 2024 in Monroe, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
The 1,500-pound Sasquatch: Bigfoot comes to life in woods near Monroe

A possibly larger-than-life sculpture, created by Terry Carrigan of Skywater Studios, will be featured at this weekend’s “Oddmall” expo.

Craig Chambers takes orders while working behind the bar at Obsidian Beer Hall on Friday, April 12, 2024, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Obsidian Beer Hall takes over former Toggle’s space in downtown Everett

Beyond beer, the Black-owned taphouse boasts a chill vibe with plush sofas, art on the walls and hip-hop on the speakers.

Glimpse the ancient past in northeast England

Hadrian’s Wall stretches 73 miles across the isle. It’s still one of England’s most thought-provoking sights.

I accidentally paid twice for my hotel. Can I get a refund?

Why did Valeska Wehr pay twice for her stay at a Marriott property in Boston? And why won’t Booking.com help her?

How do you want your kids to remember you when they grow up?

Childhood flies by, especially for parents. So how should we approach this limited time while our kids are still kids?

Lewis the cat weaves his way through a row of participants during Kitten Yoga at the Everett Animal Shelter on Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Downward cat? At kitten yoga in Everett, it’s all paw-sitive vibes

It wasn’t a stretch for furry felines to distract participants. Some cats left with new families — including a reporter.

The Ford Maverick has seating for five passengers. Its cargo bed is 4.5 feet long. (Photo provided by Ford)
2024 Ford Maverick compact pickup undergoes a switch

The previous standard engine is now optional. The previous optional engine is now standard.

Dalton Dover performs during the 2023 CMA Fest on Friday, June 9, 2023, at the Spotify House in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The Red Hot Chili Pipers come to Edmonds, and country artist Dalton Dover performs Friday as part of the Everett Stampede.

2024 Genesis G70 Sport Prestige RWD (Photo provided by Genesis)
Genesis Unveils 2024 G70 Sports Prestige Sedan

Combining power, luxury, and innovation, Genesis raises the bar yet again with enhanced performance and cutting-edge features in its latest model.

wisteria flower in Japan
Give your garden a whole new dimension with climbing plants

From clematis and jasmine to wisteria and honeysuckle, let any of these vine varieties creep into your heart – and garden.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.