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Quality claymation aside, ‘The Boxtrolls’ comes up short

"The Boxtrolls"
“The Boxtrolls”

Ian Soltes is a 25-year-old Norwalk resident and former Norwalk Community College student. He writes game reviews for an online review site, Darkstation, and has written more than 50 reviews for Gamefaqs. 

NORWALK, Conn. – When I first saw the trailer for “The Boxtrolls,” I was intrigued. Most movie trailers deal with selling the movie on high-octane action scenes, deep drama, or both, yet “The Boxtrolls” was different. Instead of showing us clips from the movie, scenes of tension, emotional moments or the like, it was a scene of some of the people working on the project simply putting the boxtrolls together. They showed the metal skeletons, building the trolls from the ground up, and how their claymation was being done.

Quite different from the normal movie trailer and it made me more than eager to see just what had been cooked up.

I am not sure if it lived up to my hopes. I expected many things, and many of those things were met. The visual design of these things was simply amazing, and the whole movie looks outright awesome without the need for CGI.

Not only was everything done by hand, but a lot of cool ideas were put forth. The titular boxtrolls are a group of humanoid beings who come out after dark and are feared by the population of a town of cheese-makers who believe that the trolls will kill and eat them if they ever catch a human.

Each of the boxtrolls ends up wearing a box, which ends up coming to represent their name. The main human lead is given a box marked “eggs” as a child for him to grow up in and, as a result, his name ends up becoming “Eggs.”

Early in the movie, there is a simple scene where Eggs and the other boxtrolls are making some music. Normally this would seem like a boring an uninteresting event, but then they did something unique with it – they smashed a light bulb for music.

Right there, the greatest strength of the movie shone through like a mighty beam of light. Whoever was in charge of “The Boxtrolls” is a genius when it comes to world design, and it shows throughout the entire film. Be it from something as unusual to showing how the boxtrolls sleep by pulling themselves into their boxes while forming a bigger box in the middle, or as a group of men talking about a woman that they are interested in and comparing her to a type of cheese. It’s unusual and fantastical in such a unique way you can’t help but stop and marvel at what just happened.

But: Then the story comes into play and it is very disappointing, all for one, simple, reason. It feels like the story had parts chopped right out of it. Very early on, Eggs and Winifred, the daughter of the mayor, meet up and Winifred is presented with the challenge of convincing Eggs that he’s not a boxtroll. Eggs has spent his entire life believing he is one, integrated into their society as one, is treated like any other boxtroll, and has even come up with justifications as to why he isn’t like them. Yet, by simply comparing his hand to that of a boxtroll, then to her own, and showing the difference, she convinced him in less than five minutes that he’s human. What a letdown. Instead of a decent bit showing how he’s convinced he is, her struggling to prove that he’s not, or them even building a relationship to the point where he’s willing to accept it — hand comparison. Bang. Convinced.

Wini’s father who is a mayor utterly obsessed with cheese? “Daddy. I thought I saw a boxtroll outside my window. You know, the things we’ve been curfewing ourselves over for the past several years, that you promised the exterminator a status as nobility for getting rid of, and people outright believe eat human beings based on a known incident?” “Wini. Stop bothering me so I can taste my cheese.”

The main antagonist?

“I just want a big, white, hat so I can be considered among the top people of this town and taste cheese that I am hyper-allergic to and will gladly stomp on innocents to do so.”

Aside from Eggs, Wini, and two of the boxtrolls (Fish and Shoe), it feels like some scenes were removed that dealt with the characters and their relationships to each other.

On the whole, while the movie is very inventive and beautifully designed, the story is just lacking all-around. The claymation is simply gorgeous and the world interesting, but aside from that, it’s just lacking.

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