• The BoxtrollsThis, the third slice of spooky whimsy from Laika, the Oregon-based stop-motion animation studio who gave us Coraline and ParaNorman, is simultaneously more of a kiddie movie than its predecessors, and more of an atrocity exhibition.

      The Boxtrolls
      Directed by Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable – 2014
      Reviewed by Mark Kines

      Set in a Victorian English town called Cheesebridge, The Boxtrolls concerns itself with the eponymous characters, who grunt like some sort of cross between Mr. Bean and Gollum, and the human boy they’ve raised since infancy. All would be well, as the Boxtrolls only emerge from their underground hideaway at night, to dumpster dive for spare parts – they are quite mechanically-inclined, you see – except that the village’s mayor(?) has hired a grotesque exterminator to rid the streets of this “threat”. Oh, what will happen to these poor creatures?

      As usual, Laika’s animation is incredible to behold, though there were times when I wondered if I would be less easy on the film’s flaws if it had been CG. (CG animators put in long hours too, but they never seem quite as heroic as stop-motion animators, do they?) They have invented an entire little world, albeit one first imagined by British author Alan Snow, on whose children’s book Here Be Monsters! the film is very, very loosely based. This is one of the rare times when I regret not seeing a 3-D movie in 3-D. The sets are richly detailed and the shots are laid out to emphasize depth.

      It’s hard to truly like The Boxtrolls, though. The fact is, the character design emphasizes the gruesome – even the human boy, Eggs, is not much to look at. (His female friend, Winnie, is a bit better, being nearly the only female in the storyline; she looks like she was modeled on Kate Winslet.) But the adult human characters, in particular the exterminator (voiced by Ben Kingsley, with a baritone so uncharacteristically deep one wonders if it was digitally manipulated), are off-putting, as is the muddy color scheme. All of this is intentional, but the sheer ugliness wore on me after a while. Tim Burton, when he made the similarly-themed Corpse Bride, at least had the good sense to boost the color palette of his netherworld, offsetting the drabness of the film’s above ground scenes.

      Nevertheless, the story is solid, even if it can be overly silly, and a few details could have been better ironed out. And like I said, the animation is terrific. I hope the film is successful enough to keep Laika in business, because I don’t want stop-motion to become a lost art. Let’s just hope their next movie is nicer to look at.

      ! Playing all week at the Academy Theater.

      Mark Tapio Kines is a film director, writer, producer and owner of Cassava Films. You can reach Mark here.


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        • Mark Tapio Kines

          Mark Tapio Kines is a film director, writer, producer and owner of Cassava Films.

          Colorado Boulevard is your place for enlightening events, informative news and social living for the greater Pasadena area.
          We strive to inform, educate, and work together to make a better world for all of us, locally and globally.

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