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Peter T Chattaway

The Boxtrolls (2014)

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OK, now I'm going to have to periodically check to see if someone with too much time on their hands edits this to add...

"Sometimes there's a man... and I'm talkin' about the Dude, here....."

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Arggh.  I came here to post the new trailer, but you beat me to it.  smile.png

 

So I'll just post this.

 

 

"Is this the best way to sell an animated film? I don’t know…and frankly, I don’t care. But as an animation fan, I’m thrilled to see a studio take a stand and do something risky. This trailer proclaims: “Marvel at our artistry! We’re not just making this film to sell you shit. We’re going to tell you a story with the highest commitment to creativity and craftmanship! And we’re proud of it!” What a statement. "

Edited by Attica

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I've sen that trailer about 3 times noe.  I don't care what the movie is about. I'm going!

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Saw the trailer in front of the Wind Rises.  It looks fantastic on the big screen.

Edited by Attica

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This one really bummed me out. 

 

I love Coraline. Really love it. I don't love ParaNorman, but I like things about it a lot. 

 

From the outset I felt the trailers for The Boxtrolls threatened a lack of inspiration and heart, but I wanted to give it every chance. 

 

My review:

 

The Boxtrolls is so defiantly weird and bleak, so committed to the bitter end to its grotesque aesthetic and chilly story, that even as the film crashes and burns you can’t help being moved by the hardworking stop-motion animators’ devotion to their craft.

 

There is very little here for viewers to love, but clearly the filmmakers loved it all: every crooked tread in every skewed staircase; every corrugation of the battered cardboard accouterments of the title creatures; every swollen pustule on the alarmingly inflamed face of the cheese-allergic villain.

 

Yet the lessons that should have learned from making Coraline and ParaNorman haven’t been learned. The crew at Laika have crafted a world rife with all the grotesquerie of earlier projects, but virtually none of the humanity. The misanthropy and progressive pieties that marred ParaNorman have bloated into a debilitating, blinding blight.

 

If there is one sentence in my review I'm most pleased with, it's this one: 

 

The town of Cheesebridge is like a mishmash of Dickens that’s all nasty Squeers, Quilps, Fagins and Havishams, unrelieved by any cheery Fezziwigs, Tapleys, Pickwicks or Wellers.

And if there's one objection that most goes to the heart of my rejection of the film, it's this one: 

 

The Boxtrolls enthusiastically embraces three of the tiredest, most grating clichés of contemporary Hollywood family entertainment — all of which I am so done with:

  • Father is a worthless moron, a functional antagonist or both;
  • Mother is literally or (worse) functionally absent; and
  • Monsters are misunderstood victims and/or Humans Are the Real Monsters.

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Uh. Oh.  I was really looking forward to this one.  Hopefully I'll find myself more favourable towards it.

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Please write a follow-up article as to how to tell your kids that you will not take them to a particular movie they had looked forward to for many months.  Thank you. Have a nice day.

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Please write a follow-up article as to how to tell your kids that you will not take them to a particular movie they had looked forward to for many months.  Thank you. Have a nice day.

That might be the saddest response I have ever gotten to any review.

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Please write a follow-up article as to how to tell your kids that you will not take them to a particular movie they had looked forward to for many months.  Thank you. Have a nice day.

That might be the saddest response I have ever gotten to any review.

 

 

Here's hoping your opinion is in the minority... but, hot darn.  Talk about being persuasive.  My daughter is verrrry trepidatious towards going to scary movies--remember, she had a meltdown during Vitruvious' "beheading"--and so here we thought the trailer had all the eerie parts spoiled for us.

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Here's hoping your opinion is in the minority... but, hot darn.  Talk about being persuasive.

Thanks. This is definitely one of the more passionate pieces I've written lately.

 

My daughter is verrrry trepidatious towards going to scary movies--remember, she had a meltdown during Vitruvious' "beheading"--and so here we thought the trailer had all the eerie parts spoiled for us.

It's not really that eerie at all, but the stress levels are way higher than The LEGO Movie. I know my son James, at a younger age, would have been beside himself at the uselessness of the parents when the kids are being menaced by the villain. Anything having to do with parents he took very much to heart. 

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And now a commenter writes:

 

Not trying to see the devil under every rock, but did you suspect that the tall white hats and the fact the main antagonist’s name is Archbald (“Archbishop”?) and that he desires to have one of the tall white hats (bishop’s mitre?) could be a slap in the face to churchmen? Forgive me if I am looking too far into this, but anything and everything is found in “family films” today. Pax.

 

Which seems to me…not crazy, actually. At least the white hat–mitre connection.

Edited by SDG

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Hmm.  I'm not sure I end up on the same side of the scales as SDG.  I did fall asleep for a portion of the first act -- its quite slow -- but the creativity on display (its a children's film where the emotional touchstone is an opera aria) is really remarkable.  Is the father useless?  Are the humans the real monsters (well, most are manipulated sheep)?  Is the mother absent? Yes, yes, and yes.

 

But the story's got a bit about class and pre-determinism that's worth wrestling with, along with a bit of redemptive tweaks to the good guy/bad guy self-designations.  It's not quite Frozen, where the hero--SURPRISE--turns out not to be so heroic, but the three henchmen with their existential worries of good and evil play nicely into a narrative of presumed expectations and roles we chose, sometimes subconsciously, to play.  But Eggs and Fish is a great father-son pair, none the worse for its surrogate/adoptive nature and a nice counterpoint to the White Hat and his daughter.

 

If The Boxtrolls has a sin, it's that it's a slog through the first 20 minutes.  A bit of a tighter scripting would have made it sing a bit more.  But do watch through the credits.  That's pretty amazing.

Edited by Buckeye Jones

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The end credits scene is far and away the best thing in the film. Like I said in my review, it highlights the artistry and love and thought that only makes the film's failings that much more galling. 

 

Is the father useless? Are the humans the real monsters (well, most are manipulated sheep)? Is the mother absent? Yes, yes, and yes.

 

"Useless" isn't nearly a strong enough description of Winnie's father. I like Film School Rejects' characterization of him (in their semi-sympathetic piece!) as "a humongous asshole," "a jackass" with "zero saving graces." 

 

Can you think of any other father in any other animated film who is that bad — and who isn't even offered a fig leaf of third-act redemption? I can't. (Aurora's father in Maleficent is worse, but not animated. Anyway, it's hard to diss fatherhood worse than a feminist fairy-tale inversion consciously structured as an attack on the patriarchy and rape culture, to the point of making the demonic villainess a wrongly demonized heroine.) 

 

Likewise, Winnie's mother is worse than "absent" — she's functionally absent, and she doesn't even occupy enough psychic space in her daughter's heart and mind for Winnie to feel her mother's uselessness as a tragedy or a privation, as she does her father's uselessness. We get this big emotional lament about "what a father is supposed to be," and how dreadful it is that the strongest filial plea wakens not the slightest paternal instinct or awareness in him — but the mother's uselessness isn't just there, it's taken for granted, unquestioned, unchallenged, unlamented. 

 

And while it may be true that most of the residents of Cheesebridge are "manipulated sheep," it's equally true that the film gives us a Dickenseque town that manifests only the nastiest side of the Dickens spectrum — the Squeers and Quilps, etc. — without a hint of Dickens' grace-filled characters, the Fezziwigs and Wellers. 

 

And, again, these tiresome tropes have become the norm in American family films today, which only makes each particular example more problematic. (Look at my long lineups of contemporary parallels in my review.)

 

If most animated fathers were admirable, stand-up dads, the occasional rotter would be easier to take. When they're usually rotters, that becomes the dominant narrative that each particular film only reinforces. 

 

Bottom line, I'm at a point in my approach to animated family films where these three "Yeses" dig a hole deep enough to pose a formidable challenge for a movie with significantly greater virtues than this one. 

 

Add to that the grotesque cruelty of the villain's comeuppance. I'm always happy when a cartoon manages to find a fate for the villain other than death, but the particular death they chose for Snatcher is way beyond the pale.  

 

I'm not that impressed with Fish as a father figure. Fish cares about Eggs, but he's passive and weak, which is to say he's a Boxtroll. Eggs has to give Fish a big inspirational speech even to persuade him to save his own skin, let alone do anything to save his son. 

Edited by SDG

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