Many years ago, a young orphaned boy was found by the Boxtrolls, gentle creatures who live underground; taken in and raised by them, the boy is given the name ‘Eggs’. Now, legend has it that the Boxtrolls are evil and the rumour is those unfortunate enough to see them get eaten, just like the baby who was taken by them a long time ago. Everyone except Winnie, a young girl living a privileged but lonely life, is terrified of them. When villainous pest exterminator, Archibald Snatcher, swears to destroy the Boxtrolls, Eggs must come to terms with being human and, with the help of Winnie, save his family from certain doom.

The Boxtrolls (2014) – Director: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi

Is The Boxtrolls appropriate for kids

Rating: PG

Running Length: 97 mins

Starring: Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley

Genre: Animated

REVIEW

Based upon the novel ‘Here Be Monsters!’ by Alan Snow, ‘The Boxtrolls’ has been produced by Laika, the stop motion animation studio famous for previous works such as ‘Coraline’ and ‘ParaNorman’. Focusing on a pre-adolescent but mature protagonist seems to be Laika’s forte and, this movie’s lead character, Eggs, is a sensible and loveable young man who is content in his life as a Boxtroll. However, when he is forced into a new world of silliness, materialism and evil he must face the struggle of adjusting to ‘normal’ life in order to save the creatures who have been his family for so many years, .

This is a charming movie with bags of personality and surprising depth. One of the more interesting characters is ‘Mr Pickles’ – a member of Archibald Snatcher’s antagonist troupe – who genuinely believes himself to be one of the ‘good guys’. However as the movie progresses and Snatcher’s plot begins to be unveiled, Mr Pickles struggles more and more to convince himself of this belief. This level of character development for a ‘kids’ film is highly unusual and gives children a strong message of questioning what may not always seem to be the right path to follow.

‘The Boxtrolls’ is a highly pleasing movie which strikes a great balance between being entertaining for children but mature enough to ensure that adults will not only enjoy the fun on offer, but be happy with the strength of characterisation that their children will be watching.

IS ‘THE BOXTROLLS’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

The opening scene explains that the people of the town are all afraid to leave their homes at night because this is when the Boxtrolls come above ground. This narrative is accompanied by scenes of the trolls in the shadows with glowing yellow eyes, making them look very menacing. However this is quickly countered by the reality of the fun-loving trolls collecting junk and it is made clear that they are not the dangerous and evil beings that everyone believes they are. Children who are scared by these initial images should be quickly reassured that the Boxtrolls are not actually anything to be afraid of.

The ‘Red Hats’, led by Archibald Snatcher are seen to be horrible to the Boxtrolls. When the trolls are afraid, they retreat inside their boxes to hide and the Red Hats kick them into the air or across the floor, hitting nearby walls very hard. The trolls are obviously afraid and are likely to suffer some pain and minor injuries from this attack. However there is no long-lasting damage and the trolls bounce back very quickly.

A male character is obsessed with a woman named Madame Frou Frou and speaks of her to two male friends in a slightly lustful manner. The woman is in a later scene wearing slightly revealing and sexy clothing. She is middle-aged and overweight but she often lifts her skirt a little to reveal her thighs. She is performing for a crowd of people and sings a song detailing the capture of a baby by the Boxtrolls and saying that the baby’s heartbroken father tried to save him but was killed and eaten by the trolls in the process.

Although he is obsessed with it, it is revealed that Snatcher is allergic to cheese. When he eats it, his face begins to turn red and purple and swells up. He doesn’t realise that this is happening so is obviously not in any pain but, as he becomes increasingly threatening in the scene, his appearance may scare some kids.

Winnie truly believes all the gory stories that have been told about the Boxtrolls and is morbidly fascinated with the legend that surrounds them. Her dialogue can sometimes be quite graphic with mentions of mountains of baby bones and rivers of blood. She asks Eggs ‘why aren’t they ripping out our eyeballs and eating our faces?’ and whether they let him watch as they ate his family. When she meets the trolls for the first time, she is terrified. The trolls pop their heads out of their boxes and one with a blank expression rotates his head very slowly around to see her and there is a sound of cogs whirring in the background but accompanies the image making it quite frightening. This could be quite disturbing for kids but, as the trolls have already been established as friendly and good, most children should not be too scared.

Snatcher finds the Boxtrolls’ lair and forces his way in using a huge robotic machine. He is seen in silhouette against a brightly coloured smoky background which makes him look even more intimidating. He captures all the trolls and places them on a platform which is part of a crushing machine. Although Egg tries to do all he can to save his friends, he is helpless to do anything as the machine slams down onto the boxes and flattens them; he is shocked and devastated, sobbing because his whole family is now gone.

One character who is thought to have been killed a while ago is revealed to still be alive. However they are now slightly insane and another character explains that ‘a decade of hanging upside down has scrambled his noodle good’. The character is happy and does not appear to suffer in any way so although the idea of what has happened to him may be upsetting, his demeanour should reassure kids that he is ok and will live a happy life afterwards.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

‘The Boxtrolls’ is a mature and dark fantasy kid’s movie that is likely to be very entertaining for both children and adults. Due to some graphic dialogue relating to what people believe the trolls to be capable of and Archibald Snatcher being an imposing and threatening character, we feel that this movie should be appropriate for most kids aged six and over.

  • Violence: 2/5
  • Emotional Distress: 3/5
  • Fear Factor: 3/5
  • Sexual Content: 1/5 (A female character is revealed to be a man in drag but this is not done in a sexual way. There is a short 5-10 second shot of the Boxtrolls when they are not wearing their boxes and their bare bottoms are shown)
  • Bad Language: 0/5
  • Dialogue: 3/5 (Winnie chastises Eggs for scratching himself saying ‘Don’t scratch there, that’s why they call them privates!’)
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of prejudice, questioning a firmly held belief, family being the loved ones around you and the importance of family over status.

Words by Laura Record

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