The Boxtrolls review

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As meticulously realised as Coraline and ParaNorman before it, the latest animation from stop-motion outfit Laika is an even harder sell than their previous features. Once again a young child serves as a conduit between the real world and a fantasy alt-universe full of outlandish critters: persecuted, bug-munching trolls who use cardboard boxes for clothing. If anything, though, the ‘real’ world is even more freakish, a bold decision that might unsettle some members of its target audience.

Take Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), a sinister chap who craves the foodstuff that gives the burg of Cheesebridge its name, yet whose face swells grotesquely if it comes into contact with it. Snatcher, as it happens, spends much of the picture pretending to be an opera diva much beloved of his town’s white-hatted elite. The scene in which he relates the tale of ‘the Trubshaw baby’, a missing infant thought to have been murdered by the Boxtrolls, is terrifying for all sorts of reasons. If you were planning to bring any kids along, be prepared to give them a consoling hug here.

Turns out, though, that the infant in question – carton-clad foundling Eggs ( Game Of Thrones ’ Isaac Hempstead Wright) – has been lovingly raised by the Boxtrolls as one of their own. Having a foot in both camps, then, he is ideally suited to broker a peace deal – provided, of course, he can vanquish Sir Ben’s troll-hunters (Nick Frost and Richard Ayoade) and woo Winnie (Elle Fanning), precocious daughter of Jared Harris’ dairy-fixated grandee.

Directors Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable do a great job conceptualising the Boxtrolls’ subterranean cavern with its Heath Robinson contraptions and recycled detritus and pull off a spectacular climax involving a walking incinerator. For all that, it’s tough to warm entirely to a film that derives perverse satisfaction from revolting the viewer.

Freelance Writer

Neil Smith is a freelance film critic who has written for several publications, including Total Film. His bylines can be found at the BBC, Film 4 Independent, Uncut Magazine, SFX Magazine, Heat Magazine, Popcorn, and more.