THE BOXTROLLS – Review by Susan Granger

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Like “Coraline” and “ParaNorman,” this quirky concept emanates from Laika animation studio in Oregon, where hand-drawn images are meticulously integrated with RP (rapid prototyping) and CG (computer-generated) pictures. Their painstaking stop-motion process consists of filming frame-by-frame (movies use 24 frames per second) while subtly controlling the characters, props, sets, etc. And when using 3D, each frame is manipulated twice. Eventually, the thousands of photographed frames are artfully edited and projected together sequentially, making the characters come to life. Read on…

Set in a Dickensian city called Cheesebridge, the grotesque and somewhat convoluted story revolves around an orphaned 11 year-old (voiced by Isaac Hempstead Wright) who was lovingly raised by tiny, timid creatures called Boxtrolls who dwell beneath the cobblestone streets, speak unintelligibly and wear cardboard boxes that double as hiding places when they’re scared. He wears a box labelled Eggs, which has become his name. Boxtrolls are terrified of an obsessively aspiring aristocrat, Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kingsley), who is determined to capture each and every one of them so he can qualify for a coveted White Hat. Envious, socially ambitious Snatcher has convinced Cheesebridge’s gullible citizens that Boxtrolls are dangerous which is obviously not true. Then one day when Eggs ventures out, he’s spotted by foolishly snobbish Lord Portley-Rind’s daughter, Winnie (voiced by Elle Fanning), who’s curious about who he is and where he comes from.

Adapted by Irena Brignull and Adam Pava from Alan Snow’s novel “Here be Monsters!,” it’s subversively propelled by directors Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable, along with producer/lead animator Travis Knight, director of photography John Ashlee Prat, production designer Paul Lasaine, editor Edie Ichioka and composer Dario Marianelli. Through their collaborative efforts, fun abounds – along with surprisingly sophisticated humor. The inventive, imaginative visuals are weirdly wonderful and the voices expressive, including Simon Pegg, Jared Harris, Toni Collette, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan and Nick Frost as supporting characters.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Boxtrolls” is a spooky, surreal 7, an emotionally resonant, steampunk fantasy – with a deliciously droll sequence during the end credits.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.