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Featured 3D Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Boxtrolls

January 18th, 2015

The Boxtrolls - Buy from Amazon: DVD or 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack

The Boxtrolls was a September release that earned good reviews, especially for a September release. However, it failed to meet expectations at the box office. On the other hand, it has done very well with Awards Season voters. Is it as bad as its box office would indicate? Is it as good as its Oscar nomination would indicate? Or is it somewhere in-between?

The Movie

The film takes place in the cheese obsessed town of Cheesebridge and starts out with us witnessing a Boxtroll stealing a baby and the exterminator, Archibald Snatcher, going to the mayor and telling him that he will take care of the trolls, but only if he's given a white hat. At first the mayor refuses, but then the exterminator warns the mayor that the trolls will come after the cheese next. With that, the mayor gives the exterminator the power to go after the trolls.

However, we next see the trolls a few years later and they are not interested in kids or cheese. They are interested in trinkets: gears, clocks, wind-up toys, etc. One of the trolls, Fish returns to the troll's underground nest with a stuffed bear that had a music box in it. He gives it to Eggs, the baby that was kidnapped. Fish has been raising him as his son. We watch a montage as Eggs grows up, but at the same time, more and more Boxtrolls are captured till there just a few left. Eggs wants to fight back, but Fish tells him that hiding is the Boxtroll way.

On their latest excursion, Eggs, Fish, and Shoe are spotted by Winifred, the mayor's daughter. Winifred tries to talk to her father, but he brushes her off and tells her to get his whitehat washed. Instead, she throws it outside. When she goes to get it, two things happen. First, she spots Eggs and is confused by a boy with the Boxtrolls. Before she can learn who Eggs is and why he is there, Archibald Snatcher catches her outside after curfew and he returns her home. While this is happening, Archibald's henchmen continue to chase down Boxtrolls and in the end, they catch Fish.

The next day, its Trubshaw Baby day, which is the day the town commemorates the kidnapping of the Trubshaw Baby. It might have started out as a sober event, but in the eleven years since the kidnapping, it has turned into a carnival. The star performer is Madame Frou Frou, whom everyone is infatuated with. Eggs decides to sneak up to the town, during the day, in order to find out where Fish is. He is horrified to see what the people of Cheesebridge think of Boxtrolls, even Winifred, who certainly does have an unhealthy obsession with them. She tells him where the exterminators are and Eggs tries to rescue Fish. They get caught, momentarily, and Eggs learns that all of the Boxtrolls caught over the years are still alive and building a machine for Archibald Snatcher. Thanks to the arrival of Winifred, who distracts Archibald and his stooges, Eggs and Fish are able to escape underground. Unfortunately, Winifred is accidentally forced underground as well.

What happens underground is too far into spoiler territory, so we will end the plot summary there.

Before I get into my review, I should point out that I'm a huge fan of Laika's first two films, Coraline and ParaNorman. The Boxtrolls is okay in comparison, but a serious step down in terms of quality. If I were to sum up the problems into one overall issue, it would be lack of engagement. I never really felt involved in the lives of most of the characters, which is obviously a huge problem. Why this happened is a lot more complicated, but a lot of it has to do with the characters. The main villain, Archibald Snatcher, is grotesque looking and his motivations are uninteresting. Eggs and Winifred are fine as characters, but they don't really stand out. Fish is the only Boxtroll that we see for any real length of time, meaning most of the rest have zero personality. They have less personality than, for example, the minions in the Despicable Me franchise. Additionally, I wasn't a big fan of the aesthetics. The look of the film was detailed, like one has come to expect from Laika, but it wasn't aesthetically pleasing. I wasn't expecting cute fluffy bunnies, not with a story involving trolls and an evil exterminator, but the unappealing design plus the lack of heart, especially early on, hurt the film enough that I was never fully drawn into the world.

That said, The Boxtrolls isn't a bad movie. It just isn't as good as I was expecting. I think it will entertain children, but it isn't as good as the other animated movies I've seen this year.

The Extras

Extras start with an audio commentary track, with Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi. The pair also provide optional audio commentary for the Preliminary Animatic Sequences, which is 17-minutes of storyboards / animatics. Dare to be Square is a five-part, 33-minute long behind-the-scenes featurette. There are also five other featurettes with a total running time of 13 minutes. Most are rather short and they look at the creation of the world of The Boxtrolls, some of which were used to promote the movie.

The technical presentation is simply awesome. The level of details in this movie is so high that even if you are not a fan of the plot but like stop-motion animation, it is worth checking out, just to look at all of the detailed models. The film isn't that colorful, but when called upon, the transfer shines in that area as well. The audio isn't quite reference level quality, but it is close enough to be a major selling point. The audio is always clear and there's plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers.

As for the 3D aspect of the Blu-ray, holy crap... I actually got a 3D Blu-ray. That's so rare. There are three points to judge when it comes to judging the 3D in a 3D movie. Number one, does it negatively affect the overall video quality? This has been the case in some films, because, for example, 3D filming tends to result in darker movies than 2D filming does. Fortunately, that is not the case here. The 3D looks just as fantastic as the 2D version does. Number two, how often do objects break the plane of the TV? The answer here is, not a lot. This is both good and bad. 3D shots that break the plane of the TV are often very fun, but are like jump scares in horror movies. Too many quickly ruins the gimmick. The final question, how is the depth? The depth of a 3D film is more important than breaking the plane and I'm happy to report that this film has excellent 3D depth. It truly feels like a real world that you can walk into. The 3D is a real selling point.

As for the prices, the DVD costs $18, the Blu-ray costs $23, and the 3D Blu-ray costs $28. Those are all right in line with expectations.

The Verdict

While my review concentrated more on the negative aspects, The Boxtrolls is still a good movie, but not a great movie. It should entertain kids who like a grittier world, while adult fans of stop-motion animation should see it at least once. The DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, and 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack have enough extras and the price is right, so if you like the movie, it is worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Boxtrolls, Despicable Me, Dee Bradley Baker, Toni Collette, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Stacchi, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Graham Annable, Steve Blum