*** out of ****
The Boxtrolls is the newest stop-motion animated film from Laika Studios, the team responsible for Coraline and ParaNorman. While Boxtrolls, which is based on the children's novel Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow, isn't quite as good as those two previous movies, it's still entertaining.
So, what are boxtrolls, exactly. Well, they are little, trash-collecting creatures who mainly come out at night from their underground lair. And they wear cardboard boxes for clothes. An evil exterminator, Archibald Snatcher (voice of Ben Kingsley), has the populace of the English village that the boxtrolls reside under convinced that the trolls are bad and need to be taken out. The truth is that these creatures are mischievous yet harmless. In fact, they have raised a human boy, named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright), as one of their own. It's up to a little girl, Winnie (Elle Fanning), to figure out the mystery of why Eggs is with the boxtrolls.
It's never explained why Eggs knows perfect English even though he's been living with gibberish speaking trolls since he was a toddler. Sure, he would listen to vinyl records the trolls would find in the garbage, but still. That's just one of those things you just have to accept.
The story here is fairly conventional – the underdogs against the upper crust villains – but what gives Boxtrolls its distinction, for better or worse, is the character designs. They are pretty grotesque, especially some of the human characters. Seriously, Archibald looks much more hideous than the trolls. In fact, this may be nightmare fuel for small children, so be warned.
The humor is dark but never, ever mean-spirited like in the awful Shrek films. Under all its oddness, The Boxtrolls is about love and family. The trolls love Eggs and Winnie desperately wants love from her neglectful father, Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris).
In the end, The Boxtrolls is charming and funny if you can get past some monstrous looking characters