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    September 17, 2014


    Laika, the studio that brought you the amazing stop-motion animations like “Coraline” and “ParaNorman”, is here with their latest one known as “The Boxtrolls”. The latest is about a group of subterranean cave-dwelling trolls (or monster) whose aspiration is to build mechanical objects from scraps. Of course, they are neither pretty nor charming from the outside, but certainly wonderful and talented from the inside. They get their names from their cardboard costumes – boxes with distinctive identity tags such as fish, shoe or clocks. Living among them is an orphan boy (yes, a human), whom, according to the urban legend of the cheese-obsessed Cheesebridge, was abducted by the trolls and ripped apart. You know that the urban legend is practically a bogus because the boy lives, and is also because of its propagandist nature created by a human villain named Archibald Snatcher.

    Very similar in concepts as the first two stop-motions from the Portland-based animation house, “The Boxtrolls” mixes the Gothic-noir fantasy, grotesque characters, and eccentric emotional back stories into the plot. In fact, all of the three Laika animations use a similar theme – which is by having an outcast child to resolve the conflict or problem between the mysterious entity and the paranoid human. But if you look close enough, you will realize that “The Boxtrolls” does, however, deviate from certain aspects that shape “Coraline” and “ParaNorman”. The horror elements, spooky Halloween-theme, mob frenzy or child bully are obviously absent, but the replacing elements are not entirely amiable.

    Very loosely adapted from Alan Snow’s “Here Be Monsters” books, “The Boxtrolls” in the movie version offers a less appealing animation journey to savour with, probably due to the uninteresting settings of the both worlds. Yes, the stop animation does give the world of human and the world of boxtrolls a detailed, colourful and brisky eye-catching canvass. Unfortunately, the storytelling is not. The first act is the strongest, in my opinion, as it tries to illuminate the audiences with the contrasting worlds of above and below, as well as offering some heartwarming lessons about the true nature of the creatures and the boy they called “Eggs”. Once it is done, however, the story goes bewildered, messy and the humours offered are rather aimless, though some are on the spot. I cannot guarantee the young audience would appreciate the cynical nature of the whole movie, given the subject matters can be very gross and weird.

    The fact that voice behind these characters are nowhere near of being interesting, some are just completely wasted. Toni Collete, Simon Pegg and Tracy Morgan are in the latter list. Ben Kingsley’s attempt to be the overdramatic villain is completely unnecessary, but given the fate of the character during the climatic part of the movie summarizes what I feel about the movie. So to say, I never apprehend the idea that many animation houses nowadays love to paint their characters in weird body proportion – well, it is still an animation right? While it is easy to think that “The Boxtrolls” is generally weird, the least that it does is to express the notion of orthodox family and social commentary. Interesting subjects such as elitist power-obsessed, propaganda-fuelled fear and conquer, as well as the innovation drive are evidently laid out in the story.

    It is a shame, however, that “The Boxtrolls” will never go down well in my list of attractive animations. Yes, I am sure that some of you may just find it appealing.

    Story: 2.5
    Casts: 3.5
    Cinematography: 4.0
    Effects: 4.0
    GREEN-TEA-O-METER: 12.0/20.0

    "The Boxtrolls" stars Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Toni Collette, Jared Harris and Simon Pegg. It is presented by Universal Pictures through Focus Features; directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi; from the screenplay by Irena Brignull and Adam Pava, based on "Here Be Monsters!" by Alan Snow. The movie is rated U and was released in Malaysia since September 11, 2014. The movie runs about 100 minutes.
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