The Boxtrolls (2014)

(On Cable TV, July 2015) I really would have liked to like The Boxtrolls more than I did.  At an age of fully computer-generated animation, there is something wonderfully tactile about Laika Studio’s blend of stop-motion animation and CGI augmentation.  Unfortunately, (and after Paranorman this seems to be a house style issue), Laika has one of the ugliest character design aesthetics in the business today, and the choices them make in building their characters is not helping the films they’re creating.  The Boxtrolls isn’t, per se, a bad or unenjoyable film, although the script is often too ordinary for its own good.  But for a film built around a visual experience, the grotesque character design takes it a step back.  Otherwise, it’s mildly enjoyable –as long as you’re not allergic to familiar plot elements, the film plays nicely from beginning to end, with inherent quirkiness, fast-paced action sequences and a fantastic attention to detail.  Emotionally, The Boxtrolls doesn’t pack the punch that previous Laika production Coraline or Paranorman managed –this is a more laid-back and unstructured result and the end result doesn’t redeem the design like Paranorman eventually did.  The technical wizardry is obvious (there’s a wonderful mid-credit moment where we clearly see the amount of work that goes into animating stop-motion films) but it feels a bit wasted here, in search of a more cohesive plan.  It’s still worth a look, but it could and should have been a bit better.

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