Wonderfully Squishy: Here be Boxtrolls

28 November 2014 - 02:01 By Anna Smith, ©The Daily Telegraph
GOOD GUYS: The fantasy-comedy film 'The Boxtrolls' features the voices of Elle Fanning and Ben Kingsley
GOOD GUYS: The fantasy-comedy film 'The Boxtrolls' features the voices of Elle Fanning and Ben Kingsley

There's a cheerfully grotesque streak to this family animation from the makers of Coraline and ParaNorman.

In the town of Cheesebridge, humans live in fear of the boxtrolls, creatures who live under the sewers wearing cardboard boxes and called names such as Fragile and Knickers.

Actually peaceful, the boxtrolls bring up a boy as one of their own. Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead Wright) grows up thinking he's a boxtroll, but new friend Winnie (Elle Fanning) puts him straight. Can they save the boxtrolls' reputation - and also save them from the evil Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley)?

Based on the novel Here Be Monsters, it is an endearing setup using stop-motion animated characters with a carnivalesque, Victorian feel. The plot is straightforward and the characters are well-drawn, many defined by ironic delusions. The slobbering Snatcher believes he belongs with toffs like Winnie's father, Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris), who feasts on cheese, a symbol of privilege. Yet Snatcher is visibly, horribly allergic to cheese, a fact he chooses to ignore as his face erupts into elephantine boils.

Snatcher's henchmen (Richard Ayoade and Nick Frost) are constantly reminding themselves that they're the good guys, with wobbles of doubt creeping into their voices. Nobody realises that the local burlesque pin-up is a man in drag. And of course, the boxtrolls are nicer than the humans think - and may be braver than they realise themselves.

There's more humour than heart to The Boxtrolls, but there are a couple of poignant moments, thanks to the bond between Eggs and Winnie, charmingly voiced by Fanning, who honed a reasonable English accent in Maleficent.

Winnie is a true scene-stealer, ghoulishly revelling in the legend of the child-snatching boxtrolls. Like much of The Boxtrolls, it is a touch that should amuse both parents and children - not something every family film achieves.

  • 'The Boxtrolls' opens in cinemas today

What others say

The details are impressive: 190 puppets built, 79 sets constructed, 20000 handmade props, 200 costumes, 53000 face parts, but it doesn't add up to enough.

Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

The story in lesser hands might have turned out only so-so. Under Laika studios' loving, labour-intensive touch, it takes on a kind of magic.

Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post

Splendidly inventive and outrageously squishy, 'Boxtrolls' features more than enough carnivalesque weirdness to give the faint-hearted the collywobbles.

Mark Kermode, The Guardian

Lush with texture, details, and jokes, it's a feast for the eyes as well as a jaunty ride.

Kristy Puchko, cinemablend.com