Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Boxtrolls


Down below the town of Cheesebridge, “Eggs” is a young boy rescued by underground creatures and raised as a boxtroll. Which are … human-shaped, but they wear boxes with holes cut out for the head, arms, and legs. When threatened, they pull into the boxes like hermit crabs. At night, they emerge to raid garbage in search of junk they can make into clever but largely useless machines. Each troll is known by the label on the box: Fish, Shoe, Pickles, Fragile, Knickers, etc.

A myth has been perpetuated by Archibald Snatcher, the local exterminator, that these creatures steal human babies and eat them. In fact, he imprisons the ones he catches and puts them to slave labor. The story got started when Eggs was rescued, and quickly became an urban legend that everyone believes. When Eggs emerges from the underground he must join forces with the snooty local mayor’s daughter, Winnie Portley-Rind, to expose the villain. For some reason, everybody in town is gaga about cheese.

All the artistry, all the careful design, and above all, all the hard work! Stop motion animation is hard, and exacting labor. I can’t imagine how anyone does it, certainly not at this level of expertise, where I wasn’t sure if it was stop motion or CGI until I looked it up. You must really love the genre to keep doing this sort of stuff in this day and age.

And I’m sorry to say that, with all that skill and love and hard work, this just didn’t make it with me. The story felt weak, the boxtrolls themselves not all that interesting. Maybe this was aimed at a younger audience. All there was for an old fart like me was an appreciation of the way it looked.

CODA: If you enjoyed it, or even if you just stuck it out until the end, like I did, do NOT stop watching when the credits start to roll or you will miss the funniest part of the movie. At some point the roll stops and we see two of the supporting puppets standing around talking to each other. The talk gets philosophical, like, did you ever wonder if we are just small players on life’s stage? Like, maybe there’s a larger guiding force behind everything we do. That goes on for a while, as the camera slowly pulls back to reveal the puppet set, and a ghostly image of the single animator working this scene, so speeded up that he is a blur. Judging from the number of times his shirt changes, this one simple little scene took him at least five or six days. Now think about the amount of movement needed in some of the crowd scenes … very, very, very cool. I only wish the movie was better.