The fantasy-comedy about trash-collecting trolls who hide beneath the fictional 18th-century setting of Cheesebridge, based on the Alan Snow book Here Be Monsters!, is one of those films adults will enjoy as much as children. Why?
1. The awesome 3D stop-motion animation
I only realised the steampunk-style animation was done using stop-motion when the girl character, Winnie – the daughter of the mayor of Cheesebridge, Lord Portley-Rind – appeared on the scene and I saw her clothes had a textural, hand-crafted quality, more “real” than animated. Not since Minnie Mouse have I envied a “cartoon” character’s shoes so – those lace-up boots!
The costume designer, Deborah Cook, who also worked on Fantastic Mr. Fox and Corpse Bride, spoke on the challenges of designing outfits for such tiny characters here. (It’s worth looking at for the adorable mini rail of actors’ costumes alone.)
2. Its spookiness and humour that darkly delights
A grimy British look and feel defines the animation: It’s all bunions and skew teeth and cobblestones and vintage winklepickers. Indeed, if your kids are on the sensitive side, getting beyond the Victorian spookiness of the opening section may be a challenge. (But, as author Neil Gaiman explains here, scary stories are always worth it.)
The macabre element that runs through the film will delight adults though, as will its commentary on class aspirations, and the ludicrousness of social mores and manners.
(The film’s baddie, Archibald Snatcher, who looks like an ageing rock star, wants to be part of the exclusive White Hat group of cheese connoisseurs, despite having a cheese allergy so severe, he blows up hideously every time he touches the stuff.)
3. The “aw, shucks” moral of the story
The boxtrolls of the title are shy creatures, believed to be monsters, who live their lives in fear and hiding. But the story’s message – that you are enough, regardless of class, and that you should show up and stand up for yourself – will have the audience cheering aloud at the film’s rousing, rowdy climax.
P.S. Be sure to stay till the end credits, when the stop-motion set is revealed in all its intricate detail.
To watch the trailer, click here.