Ben Kingsley and Elle Fanning add their voices to a smart, surprisingly dark animation
Billed as ‘from the makers of Coraline and ParaNorman’, The Boxtrolls is a weird, wonderful stop-motion and CG hybrid animation based on the novel Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow. Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi’s film isn’t innocuous knockabout fun like, say, Despicable Me; it's a more intense, often disturbing but decidedly adventurous story about an underground community of marginalised creatures who make their home from recycled rubbish.
In the netherworld underneath Cheesebridge, Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) is the odd one out: he’s actually a boy, cruelly separated from his father (Simon Pegg) and adopted by a boxtroll known as Fish (Dee Bradley Baker) – each of the creatures is identified by the image on the front of the box they wear. Eggs emerges from his manhole to develop a relationship with Winnie (Elle Fanning), the daughter of the town's aristocratic mayor Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris). Portley-Rind has set a vicious group of exterminators (Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade and Tracy Morgan) onto the poor trolls, led by the grotesque Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley).
Snatcher’s relationship with cheese, which bears an obvious resemblance to cocaine addiction, is amongst the non-child friendly ingredients here; his face and body ripen and swell horrifically during several allergic reaction sequences. The stark sense of social division, the clear message about state power running amuck and spurious anti-terror alerts against the innocent boxtrolls are all deftly explored, meaning The Boxtrolls has plenty to keep adults occupied.
Whether kids will respond to the rather threatening Charles Dickens meets Tim Burton feel is another question, if anything Laika Entertainment may have overestimated their audience, but adults seeking something more imaginative for their children may be grateful for the result. The Boxtrolls is impressively nasty fare for gothic fantasists of all ages.
General release from Fri 12 Sep.