Eye popping but patience testing
The stop-motion animation used in “The Boxtrolls” is a marvel of meticulous, painstaking creative detail and one of the first feature films to showcase the visually wondrous possibilities of advanced 3-D printer technology. Which makes the results of this uneven, comedy-free adaptation of Alan Snow’s novel “Here Be Monsters” so disappointing. While kids may enjoy the stunning images of the impish underground creatures in all their quirky nuance, a lackluster story and its focus on the unlikeable villain will have young ones and their parents alike bored after about 20 minutes.
The film was produced by Laika Entertainment, the studio founded by Nike boss Phil Knight, whose previous films are “Coraline” and “Paranorman.” Both of them were nominated for Academy Awards and registered with critics but failed to achieve Pixar or Dreamworks level success at the box office. “The Boxtrolls” follows in the same vein as its predecessors, offering interesting characters but little of the wit and whimsy of films like the “Wallace and Gromit” series. A little darkness can go a long way—as in “The Nightmare Before Christmas”—but there needs to be something magical with which audiences can connect.
The Boxtrolls live underground, mischievous but harmless creatures that have raised a little human boy named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) who doesn’t realize he’s human. The villainous and fantastically ornate Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) recalls a creepier Thernadier high-society wannabe and lives above, and persuades his fellow 19th century villagers that the Boxtrolls are evil and must be destroyed. The cheese-loving citizens are convinced and the future for Eggs and his box-wearing pals looks bleak until Winnie, the daughter of an aristocrat, befriends the misunderstood community of stackable misfits.
Every story like this needs a good villain, but “The Boxtrolls” spends far more time on the ugly, heavily accented and sometimes difficult to understand Snatcher. He is simply not unique or funny enough to carry this story. And while it aspires to be a comedy, “The Boxtrolls” offers little of the bounce and verve of today’s best animated films.
Rated “PG” for action, some peril and rude humor.