The Boxtrolls - An enjoyably, dark tale that will divide audiences - 3 stars

Disturbing and delightful, creepy and captivating, annoying and appealing. The Boxtrolls seems to ride a fine line for audiences.

Walking into the cinema...
The creators of Paranorman and Coraline deliver another children's film that is designed for the Gooebumps audience. Will this story have wider appeal for young audiences? 

Cinematic value: 3.5 stars      Family value: 2.5 stars      Overall rating: 3

       The BoxTrolls is a well crafted adaption from the children's novel "Here Be Monsters'. The audience is introduced to the fascinating world of the trolls who live under the streets of Cheesebridge and have created a symbiotic existence with the above ground community. The story's central character is Eggs, an orphaned boy raised by the underground, cave-dwelling, trash collectors who ultimately tries to save them from an evil exterminator, Archibald SnatcherWhen Snatcher comes up with a plot to get rid of the BoxTrolls, Eggs decides to venture above ground and "into the light." He becomes the link between the two communities and in attempting to save his own, bringing together both of these unique worlds. He meets and teams up with the motivated and twisted character, Winnie, and together they develop a plan to save The BoxTrolls family and ultimately bring light to the dark underworld of Cheesebridge. 
        In an era of amazing animation and special effects, The Boxtrolls continues the stop-motion tradition. The intricate detail of this art form is a wonder to experience. Laika Entertainment has not had the success that the Aardman Animation team has seen. Yet, they have grown in reputation due to their Academy Award nomination for ParaNorman. They choose dark themes that push the edge of comfort in children's themed films, but they have perfected their niche in the industry.  (ParaNorman) and  (Open Season) direct this dark story of dual societies. The animation is a wonder to experience, but the narrative is a bit disturbing for younger audience members. The directorial team intentionally manoeuvre the film away from the traditional lighter fare of Disney and Aardman to appeal to an audience who prefers a starker view on society. The vocal cast is brilliant in their portrayal of the characters above and below Cheesebridge.  (Ghandi, Iron Man 3) shows his diversity of acting skills by lending his voice to the central villain of Archibald Snatcher. He is supported by Elle Fanning, Jared Harris, Toni Collette, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg to round out the cast. The humour is quite dark, but the cast carries the story along well. 
     The central theme of the story sits with the love and care of Eggs, the adopted son of the Boxtrolls. The naivety of this underground community and their role of caring for this orphaned child is the key to the relationship between the two communities. It adds an endearment to the film and the needed tension to find the answers to how Eggs became part of their bizarre world. As the story unfolds and the development of the characters are revealed, the value of family is a positive light in this dark tale. The storyline and humour does sit in the British tradition of Monty Python and Roald Dahl, which does not always translate well into children's ideology. Due to the darker feel of the film and the graphic portrayal of the villains, The Boxtrolls did upset many of the younger audience members upset and caused some families to leave the viewing of the film. This made for an awkward cinematic experience, the brilliance of the animation and the storytelling seemed to miss the market that the film was developed to reach. It could be appreciated by adults, but did not seem to entertain many of the younger audience members. Also, the story seemed to remain in the shadows and lacked any lighter themes. The Boxtrolls deserved to be portrayed as endearing and to shine bright within their world, but  the feeling was that all the characters were ultimately left in the dark. With few options this season for children's films, The BoxTrolls looked like a good option for younger viewers. It was entertaining and well directed, but the dark themes made it difficult to recommend for its apparent target audience. 

Leaving the cinema...
The Boxtrolls left me divided. The animation was amazing to experience and the story had redeeming characteristics, but the film seemed to miss its target audience. This is marketed as a children's film, but the themes and style were designed for adults. I liked the film, but find it difficult to recommend for young children and their families. Just as the community of Cheesebridge and The Boxtrolls are divided, but connected. This film does not connect with it's target audience, even though it makes for beautiful movie making. 

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 
1. What is the value of family?  (Matthew 15:4, Ephesians 6:1-2)
2. What does the Bible say about adoption? (Galatians 4:5-7, Romans 9:8)
3. Where can people find their identity with God? (Genesis 1:27, 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews