IHAO on ... the Boxtrolls

Claymation is a really cool medium, especially nowadays.  It takes so much work and so much artistry for something that could be done just as easily, maybe easier, in CGI animation.  Really good Claymation makes you wonder "how did they do that?!" and makes very real looking things happen, because it is happening instead of being all computers.  The craft is really cool, is what I'm saying.  It also does not immediately make a film good.

The Boxtrolls is the perfect example of a conceit in film called "dissonance."  It is where the parts of a film, while perhaps all good in quality individually, when brought together are all rubbish.  There are good things, there are bad things, there are inbetween things, and none of it feels particularly well joined into a cohesive whole.  The voice actors are all well and good, but are reading things a little campier than the script intends, while in turn the script is much more whimsical than the direction of the film plays it which is basically straight without jokes, more like an action film, and then that is dissonant from the art direction, which is gothic and victorian and surprisingly dark with very very little humor to it at all.  As an example, let's just look at our bad guy.  He is played by Sir Ben Kingsley, who does a super super good job playing this dark, brooding, gothic evil character, but the script has him cross-dressing and dying (spoilers) by cheese induced farts and bloating like this is a madcap farce, but then the art direction has him become this truly terrifying Quasimodo-esque looking monster when he is having his allergic reactions.  None of those things really mesh together.  And that happens all throughout the movie.

The plot of the thing is that there are these Boxtrolls, and in this town that is obsessed with cheese and hats as status symbols, a red hat is promised a white hat if he kills all the Boxtrolls.  The Boxtrolls take a baby and raise him, and that young boy - named Eggs - has to save his family from the bad guy red hats..

There is something cool in that plot, yeah?  All right, maybe not for some, but I'm a Dungeons and Dragons, gothic literature loving kind of guy.  And this films gothic nature and dark tone don't turn me off.  But all the dissonance I was talking about above really does make it hard to like any of the film.  Which is a huge shame, because there is some stuff I liked overall in the movie, but really, the Boxtrolls parts for the most part are way better than the whole it creates.  I hate movies like this, middle of the road movies.  I can't even bring myself to be angry or excited about it.  They are just ... there.  I was pretty harsh on Big Hero 6 earlier for not being quite up to snuff for me in terms of scripting and plot and such, much like Gone Girl, but both those movies had strong directors that at least made a cohesive film.

Sorry Boxtrolls.

Grade: C


  1. But there was plenty of humor...and it wasn't gothic at all...and there were absolutely no farts... Did we watch the same movie?

    1. The bad guy died in a fart explosion from a dairy allergy. If you don't count that as a fart, than all right I suppose.

      As for humor, everyone finds different things funny. I found there to be a lot of jokes, but not a lot of humor or comedy in the film. The funniest part was the end where we see the two redhat henchmen talking about if they were moved around by people, and you see all the work someone had to do to make that sequence as it is being performed. That is the post-film scene. Really really bad when that scene is your most humorous.

      And the film was indeed gothic, as in the style of literature that is "gothic," here's the definition: "noting or pertaining to a style of literature characterized by a gloomy setting, grotesque, mysterious, or violent events, and an atmosphere of degeneration and decay." If you do not think that definition describes the Boxtrolls, then I suppose we did watch two different movies.