Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA, . , . Screenplay by , , story adaptation by , , additional writing by , based on the novel by . Cinematography by . Produced by , . Music by . Production Design by , , , . Costume Design by . Film Editing by . Academy Awards 2014. Golden Globe Awards 2014.
A make-believe, skewed idea of a Victorian island city is ruled by wasteful, unfeeling humans who obsess over their love of cheese, while below the ground live trolls whose cardboard vestments give them their much-maligned name. According to the people above, the boxtrolls are vicious killers who kidnap and murder children, but in reality they’re mischievous and handy and love collecting the junk they find on the streets, using their spoils to create things. The ambitious and morally lax Snatcher longs to become part of the local group of white-hatted aristocrats who spend their days eating gourmet cheeses in their secret meetings, and strikes a deal with the head of the group that he will kill every boxtroll in exchange for a place at their table. Years earlier, he told the city that the marginalized underdwellers had kidnapped and murdered a baby and its father, but we know that the baby is alive and well and has been raised in the underworld by the adorable little critters, accepted as one of their own and a grown boy named Eggs. When Snatcher, whose design and voice performance by makes him worthy of the finest of Dickens’ villains, starts abducting his friends from their homes under the city streets, our human hero Eggs must venture into the upper world to save them, but is undone by his discovery that he isn’t exactly the same as the people he grew up with. His connection with humanity takes the form of Winnie (voiced with irresistible intelligence by ), who doesn’t believe Eggs’ assertion that the Boxtrolls aren’t dangerous, but is frustrated enough with her father’s ignorance of her that she’s willing to take a shot with this strange boy. Smart, funny, intelligent and actually quite moving at times, this richly plotted adventure wears its allegory on its sleeve but keeps its mind enough on the spirit of its characters and brightness of its plot enough to never feel like a lecture. Practically every sequence is a miracle of action and imagination, from the titular heroes’ smooth movement through the city to the closing scenes involving Snatchers’ doom machine.