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Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Boxtrolls (2014)

This movie is loosely based on "Here Be Monsters", a book by Alan Snow, and it is imaginatively put into stop action animation by LAIKA, who brought us "Coraline".  The town of Cheesebridge is very Victorian in it's class structure with the rich being unattractive and very few great role models to be found.  Then there are the Boxtrolls. The Boxtroll lair is a beautifully-imagined underground space: a gigantic cave, crammed full of found objects, gears, lightbulbs and toasters; things thrown away by the Cheesebridge residents. The Boxtrolls speak, but we don't understand their language, and there are no subtitles. The Boxtrolls exist as beautiful evidence of the sheer power and clarity of pantomime. They babble and gurgle to one another, and we understand every word.  Eggs, who lives amongst them, is quite clearly a boy and not a Boxtroll, but he is unaware of that, and he is also the hero of the story.  He brings many things to light, and changes Cheesebridge for the better as a result.

This movie has a darkness to it—in both the images and the themes—a darkness that is practically existential in nature, but not very far removed from the dark themes of other children's stories.  The movie creates a hierarchical world, with strict rules governing that structure, and it introduces us to a cast of eccentric and often grotesque characters who live and breathe in the highly classist world that is not so far removed from many places that exist today. It's gloriously inventive, wonderfully funny, and gorgeous to look at, the screen filled with sometimes overwhelming detail. The universe "The Boxtrolls" gives us is one both strange and familiar: a town that exists in some kind of collective unconscious with its narrow streets, massive main square, teetering mansions and slimy alleyways. It's out of a fairy tale; it's medieval Europe; it's Dickens.  Very nicely done, with a lot to appeal to adults and children alike.

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