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Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi
Ben Kingsley, Jared Harris, Nick Frost
Writing Credits:
Irena Brignull, Adam Pava

A young orphaned boy raised by underground cave-dwelling trash collectors tries to save his friends from an evil exterminator.

Box Office:
$60 Million.
Opening Weekend
$12,608,372 on 3260 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 1/20/2015

• Audio Commentary with Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
• “Dare to Be Square” Featurettes
• 5 Featurettes
• Preliminary Animatic Sequences
• Previews
• DVD Copy


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The Boxtrolls [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 1, 2019)

With 2014’s The Boxtrolls, we find the third stop-motion animated feature film from Laika Studios. Set in the fictional town of Cheesebridge, the story introduces us to Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead Wright), a young orphaned boy.

Though Eggs lacks formal parentage, he doesn’t live alone, as he enjoys the supervision of the Boxtrolls. A clan of cavern-dwelling little folk who clad themselves in boxes, the Boxtrolls give Eggs the love and nurturing he needs.

A threat enters the picture via Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley). An exterminator, he wants to eradicate the Boxtrolls, so Eggs and his pal Winnie (Elle Fanning) need to muster the resources to stop him.

For better or for worse, Laika established a clear studio style in terms of story and characters. Through their five films to date, each one has focused on outcasts and misfits to a large degree.

Though this implies Laika’s movies may seem repetitive and stale, they manage to approach their subjects in different ways. For instance, ParaNorman followed a horror movie motif, whereas Kubo and the Two Strings went with a samurai vibe.

When Boxtrolls hit screens in 2014, I avoided it mainly because I thought the title creatures looked so unpleasant. Not that I always shy away from potentially ugly characters, but something about the Boxtrolls left me really cold, and I didn’t have prior experiences with Laika to sway me.

That’s because in 2014, I’d yet to watch any of the studio’s movies. Over the last year or so, I’ve delved into their work and found Laika’s offerings to be largely enjoyable. Some fare better than others, of course, but all four of the other flicks generally worked for me.

Unfortunately, that trend didn’t continue with Boxtrolls. Though the film offers occasional glimpses of wit and cleverness, much of it becomes a chore to watch.

My primary concern stems from the generally charmless characters. While we’re supposed to bond with Eggs, Winnie and the Boxtrolls, none of them manage to create likable roles.

Those parts seem flat and uninspiring, and the villains fail to compensate. Snatcher acts as a generic baddie, and his henchmen don’t add to the experience either.

In addition, the film’s world comes with a decidedly unappealing visual milieu. Settings and characters seem relentlessly ugly, and that becomes another impediment.

Of course, the Boxtrolls are supposed to be odd-looking, but there’s “cute ugly” and “just plain ugly”. The Boxtrolls fit that latter category, another reason they fail to connect.

The same problem connects to Snatcher and the others. Again, I get the choice to make these roles unpleasant to watch, but the film goes too far and ensures that they’re far too visually unappealing.

In terms of story, Boxtrolls lacks much of one. It gives us rudiments related to Eggs’ struggles and past but none of this blossoms into much of a compelling narrative.

Boxtrolls beats us over the head with its message, as we get scenes where local leaders gorge themselves and ignore problems while they persecute the outsiders. This doesn’t seem like a particularly fresh or insightful take.

Even the animation seems awkward, as Boxtrolls lacks the artistry I expect from Laika. Chalk this one up as a spiritless disappointment that’s easily the worst thing Laika’s done to date.

Footnote: stick around through the first part of the end credits for a little bonus.

The Disc Grades: Picture A/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

The Boxtrolls appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. As I expected, the transfer looked terrific.

Sharpness was fine across the board. Virtually no softness appeared, as the movie delivered satisfying definition.

No signs of jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and edge haloes were absent. Of course, print flaws never manifested themselves.

Boxtrolls came with a palette that mildly emphasized teal, with a general pastel sense as well. The colors showed a good sense of vividness and worked well.

Blacks were dark and deep, while low-light shots offered nice clarity and smoothness. This became an appealing visual presentation.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack offered a lively soundscape, especially during the action-oriented sequences. Those fleshed out the spectrum in an involving way and gave us nice chances for movement.

This allowed the surrounds to play an active role. The track worked well enough in the early stages but it picked up more as it went, especially as the film neared its climax. The various channels got a good workout in this engrossing soundscape.

Audio quality seemed pleasing. Speech always sounded distinctive and concise, while music was peppy and rich.

Effects offered solid reproduction, with clean highs and deep lows. I liked this mix and thought it gave the movie life.

When we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary from directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the source’s adaptation and story/characters, cast and performances, design choices, music and audio, puppets and animation and connected domains.

Across the board, this becomes a useful commentary. The directors touch on a good array of topics and do so in an insightful, engaging manner.

Under Preliminary Animatic Sequences, we find six segments with a total running time of 17 minutes, 29 seconds. These show us animated storyboards for the six scenes, and they offer a fun way to see early versions of the various segments.

We can view these with or without commentary from Annable and Stacchi. They tell us about the sequences and aspects of the production/storytelling processes. They add useful insights.

Up next, the four-part Dare to Be Square fills 32 minutes, 48 seconds with notes from Annable, Stacchi, producer/lead animator Travis Knight, producer David Bleiman Ichioka, replacement animation and engineering Brian McLean, character fabrication supervisor Georgina Hayns, animation supervisor Brad Schiff, animation rigging Oliver Jones, story artist David Vandervoort, CG facial animator Jeff Croke, lead replacement animation specialist Tim Yates, editor Edie Ichioka, composer Dario Marianelli, costume designer Deborah Cooke, animation rigging Gerald Svoboda, model builder Raul Martinez, art director Curt Enderle, and actors Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Richard Ayoade, Nick Frost, Tracy Morgan, Jared Harris, Toni Collette, Steve Blum, Dee Bradley Baker, and Simon Pegg.

“Dare” examines cast, characters and performances, design, music, puppets and animation. We get a good view of these various topics in this informative and engaging collection of clips.

More programs appear under Featurettes. This breaks into five sections that go for a total of 13 minutes and provide comments from Knight, Annable, Jones, Stacchi, Enderle, Baker, Blum, Vandervoort, McLean, Hayns, VFX supervisor Steve Emerson and facial animation supervisor Peg Serena.

The featurettes cover design and animation, the Boxtrolls’ language, and various challenges. Though these clips exist for promotional purposes, they manage a few fun glimpses of the production.

The disc opens with ads for Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle and The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Previews adds promos for The Nut Job, Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, Coraline, ParaNorman and The Little Rascals Save the Day. No trailer for Boxtrolls appears here.

Though it occasionally displays charm, much of The Boxtrolls fails to endear itself to the audience. The characters don’t connect and the whole package seems just a little too grotesque to achieve its goals. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals, very good audio and a fairly nice roster of bonus materials. The movie doesn’t flop but it disappoints.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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