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Boxtrolls, The (3D)


Stars: Voices: Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Dee Bradley Baker, Steve Blum, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Simon Pegg

Director: Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable

There are basically three types of watchable animated family films – ones that kids will enjoy to the hilt, one that parents will enjoy as much as their offspring and, of course, foreign (usually Japanese) family films which should be considered as art because they are subtitled.

The Boxtrolls, which scores high on both style and substance is firmly in category two. Konrad (4) and his parents agree. So do I. It’s highly amusing with a splendid spicing of cynicism to avoid sugar-soaked sentimentality.

Basically – and enjoyably – the storyline is cheesy. The fast and furious fun is set in the weird city of Cheesebridge where and elite of rotten humans rule the roost and gorge themselves on every kind of cheese. The eponymous Boxtrolls are weird and wonderful creatures of fantasy that live underground, live in cardboard boxes and scavenge on the city’s streets at night - and have brought up a human boy since childhood. The lad (voiced by Jesse Hampstead Wright) happily believes he is one of the scavengers – until he turns out to be the catalyst for the bringing down some of the city’s posh people…

Mere city-dwelling humans believe Boxtrolls are demons that kidnap kids and eat them. So as not to put youngsters off their popcorn, I can assure you the Boxtrolls have been badly maligned by the rotten humans who are exploiting them.

There’s something wonderfully Dickensian in the over-the-top visuals (brilliant 3D stop-motion brings the unique milieu vividly to life): imagine Oliver Twist meets Roald Dahl’s Charlie of ‘Chocolate Factory' fame meets Ronald Searle’s St Trinian’s and spice the meld with a cynically clever – and funny – view all of its own. The Oregon-based animators (a strange concept in itself) have done screenwriters Irena Brignull and Adam Pava (adapting Alan Snow’s book, Here Be Monsters!) proud, as have directors Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable who keep the pace fast and stuff it full of funny slapstick and crazy comedy, all vividly showcased in potent 3D.

Vocal casting, too, is spot-on with Jared Harris particularly memorable as the bombastic cheese-gorging leader of the elite, Dickensian-on-heat Ben Kingsley delivers his lines in his best Donald Wolfit-impression mode, Toni Collette is ideal and, serendipitously, Simon Pegg is heard and not seen.

Alan Frank

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour.
96 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 26 Sep 2014