The Boxtrolls

Directed By: Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi

Starring: Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, and Tracy Morgan

Compared to last year, 2014 has been a relatively quiet year on the animated film front.  How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Planes: Fire and Rescue were the only two titles to arrive at the box office this summer from the genre.  As a single guy with no kids, I could personally care less, but I'm sure parents have felt the absence of animated fare to keep their kids occupied.  I'm also sure that they're happy to see The Boxtrolls arriving in theaters this weekend.  They could use a bit of a break from watching Frozen for the thousandth time on Blu-ray.

The Boxtrolls have supposedly tarnished the image of a town that's otherwise considered to be "A Gouda Place to Live".  A rumor has been perpetuated that they terrorize the townspeople, have a penchant for stealing babies, and dine on human flesh.  In reality, the truth couldn't be further from this.  In fact, a boy named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) was placed in the Boxtrolls' care when he was just an infant.  Since then, he's been raised in the lower world (i.e. the sewer) by a Boxtroll named Fish (Dee Bradley Baker).  Unknown to the humans above, this very different truth remains hidden.  It doesn't help that an evildoer named Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) wants to capitalize on the Boxtrolls' poor reputation.  Seeking nobility in the form of a white hat and cheese tastings, the notorious red hat Snatcher launches a Boxtroll extermination service to win over the townspeople.

Winnie (Elle Fanning) is the daughter of Lord and Lady Portley-Rind (Jared Harris & Toni Collette).  Born into a sheltered life of nobility and fine cheese, she believes in all the horrific myths about the Boxtrolls and is on a mission to discover the pile of bones they've supposedly left in their path over the years.  Whenever she sees them, she alerts her father who promptly ignores her.  One night, Winnie sees Eggs with the Boxtrolls roaming around town.  She immediately suspects they've kidnapped him and will eat his face off.  She once again notifies her father who again disregards her claims about the Boxtrolls.  When she runs into Eggs the next day in town, Winnie sees an opportunity to prove herself right about the Boxtrolls.  She just has no idea how wrong she really is.

I'm just going to rip the Band-Aid off.  One of the things I typically notice in a kids’ movie is children laughing and talking as the film progresses.  I witnessed just the opposite in the first half of The Boxtrolls.  Except for crying babies, I could hear a pin drop in the theater.  There was a general silence over the theater, which I did not expect.  The kids just didn't connect with the movie.  Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi offer us an original, intriguing premise with a beautifully crafted world, but that's not enough.  The film has to be infused with humor, silliness, and the vibrancy that attracts youths.  Instead, The Boxtrolls is a bland affair from the start.  While it gets a second wind later in the film, it's not enough to save it.

There's a decent ensemble of actors voicing the characters of The Boxtrolls.  For his part as Eggs, Isaac Hempstead-Wright meets the basic requirements.  He's able to bring the appropriate level of awkwardness to a boy who has been raised in the most unusual circumstances.  For her part as Winnie, Elle Fanning is the heart and soul of the film.  Giving an outsized performance in an otherwise mediocre film, she brings a curiosity and humanity to her character unmatched by any of the others.  Her voice acting is the most authentic of the bunch.  Ben Kingsley is a bit too over the top as Snatcher.  Jared Harris, Toni Collette, and the other supporting cast members don't do too much for me in their roles.

The Boxtrolls is an animated film with all the promise and potential in the world given its premise.  It just doesn't live up to any of it.  I wish I had a better recommendation.  As it stands, The Boxtrolls gets a 0.09% rating.  Have a few margaritas with this one.