2012 was a big year for grotesque stop motion animation feature films. We were served up Frankenweenie, Hotel Transylvania and The Pirates! Band of Misfits.
Kids have always loved being grossed out and with a Zombie and Vampire renaissance across all media, it should have come as no surprise that joining those titles was the very popular ParaNorman.
It was the first real spooy film my daughter, then 5 had seen, and tapped into her delight for all things Halloween.
This year the team behind ParaNorman bring us The Boxtrolls. Featuring the voices of Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Simon Pegg, Richard Ayoade, Nick Frost, Jared Harris, and Tracy Morgan, it tells the story of the town of Cheesebridge, a posh Victorian-era place obsessed with wealth, class and the stinkiest of fine cheeses. Beneath its charming cobblestone streets dwell the Boxtrolls, foul monsters who crawl out of the sewers at night and steal what the townspeople hold most dear: their children and their cheeses. At least that’s the legend residents have always believed. In truth, the Boxtrolls are an underground cavern-dwelling community of quirky and lovable oddballs who wear recycled cardboard boxes the way turtles wear their shells. The Boxtrolls have raised an orphaned human boy, EGGS (voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Wright), since infancy as one of their dumpster-diving and mechanical junk-collecting own. When the Boxtrolls are targeted by a villainous pest exterminator ARCHIBALD SNATCHER (Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley) who is bent on eradicating them as his ticket to Cheesebridge society, the kind-hearted band of tinkerers must turn to their adopted charge and an adventurous rich girl WINNIE (Elle Fanning) to bridge two worlds amidst the winds of change – and cheese.
Challengingly, the creatures themselves seem to be some kind of hybrid of a rejected Roald Dahl creature, mixed with the scariest incarnation of Smeagol / Gollum, plus some Star Wars Tusken/Jawa offspring influence thrown in for good measure.
They don’t make for endearing heroes.
Which is probably the point.
Ruby, now almost 7 was on the edge of her seat for most of the film, however I was not so engaged, despite a smattering of adult gags. Sample – when the villains are hunting Boxtrolls and sense them nearby, one says “Boxtrolls are afoot”. This leads to some confusion about Boxtrolls being a body part until another says “Afoot is a fancy word for vicinity.”
In comparison to the weird, wonderful wacky visions that the two Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs films offered up, The Boxtrolls seems a much more sombre affair.
Again this is possibly the point. It’s about not judging people, it’s about the class system and it’s about relationships between children and their fathers.
I was very happy that I had taken the opportunity to go see this film with my daughter, I just wish I might have enjoyed it more.
One thing worth doing is to stick around to the end credits to see how they actually create the stop-motion sequences. It’s a good lesson for your kids to see how much work goes into something like this. Visually this film is absolutely astounding.
ParaNorman was nominated for an Oscar and I expect this will be too, up against the likes of The Lego Movie and Big Hero 6, it is certainly one of the less conventional kids films you can see in 2014.