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Too little charm in dark ‘Boxtrolls’

“The Boxtrolls” are a fearsome bunch to Cheesebridge.

You have to admire the lengths to which the makers of “The Boxtrolls” are willing to go to spring unpleasant surprises on the film’s audience.

Considering that audience will be made up mostly of kids, you also have to question their wisdom. Or maybe kids can find a silver lining to a story involving genocide, deadbeat parents and self-centered behavior. Kids are weird. (I have four, so I feel safe in saying so.)

But this much is certain: Uninformed parents and their children are going to be caught off-guard, and there’s not really enough good about the film to make up for that. Which makes the prospect of watching the audience more enticing than the movie itself, which is probably not a good thing.

Part of the problem with directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi’s film, based on Alan Snow’s book “Here Be Monsters,” is the story’s construction. It’s set in Cheesebridge, where everyone fears the Boxtrolls, rumored to be baby snatchers who might just eat off your face if they catch you. So every night the residents of the town bolt themselves behind their doors while the trolls — who wear boxes, thus the name — pop up from the sewers and swipe everything in sight.

The town is run by Lord Portley-Rind (voice of Jared Harris) and his fellow White Hats, who are more concerned with cheese than the well-being of the citizenry. Lord Portley-Rind’s daughter Winnie (Elle Fanning) occasionally tries to get a little time with her father — a single parent, evidently — but he is far too concerned with his social status and cheese-eating to pay attention to her.

Enter Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), an exterminator. If he wipes out the Boxtrolls, every last one of them, Lord Portley-Rind will make him a White Hat.

Meanwhile, below ground, we watch as Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright), a human boy adopted by the Boxtrolls, grows up in a nurturing, happy environment.


Just in case you missed anything.

The ranks of Eggs’ troll friends (they get their names from the names on the boxes they wear, so he hangs around with Fish, Oil Can, Shoe, etc.) grown thinner as Snatcher increases his efforts.

It all ties together eventually, but as you can tell, it’s a long time getting there, and it’s an often-bumpy ride. There are some laughs and the dark, steam-punk look of Cheesebridge is intriguing, but there’s little charm. This is surprising, as the film comes from Laika Entertainment, the studio that gave us the outstanding “ParaNorman” and the brilliant “Coraline.” Both of those films offered challenges for kids, in content and execution — they were legitimately scary (“Coraline” in particular). But the stories were compelling. “The Boxtrolls” meanders too much, takes far too long to get started and doesn’t pick up enough momentum once it does to keep us enchanted.

And enchantment is an essential ingredient of an animated film, particularly one that skirts dark edges. “The Boxtrolls” doesn’t have nearly enough of it.

‘The Boxtrolls’

Rated: PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor.

Star Rating: ★★

Written By

Avi Adkins is a seasoned journalist with a passion for storytelling and a keen eye for detail. With years of experience in the field, Adkins has established himself as a respected figure in journalism.

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