A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while The Boxtrolls isn't quite as supernaturally creepy as the filmmakers' previous movies, Coraline and ParaNorman, it still has a lot of peril, tense moments, and a very unpleasant villain. Sympathetic characters are presumed dead at different points, a crying baby is carried away in the middle of the night, and the bad guy is bent on total extermination of the boxtrolls, painting them as bloodthirsty monsters, even though they're really peace-loving tinkerers. His extermination machine is loud, scary, fiery, and destructive, and he looks positively unhinged when he gets riled up. The movie may be animated (stop-motion), but it's really too intense for younger kids (especially when seen in 3-D). Characters are constantly in danger, whether from their own or others' actions, and there are some upsetting separations. One character has a significant food allergy that plays a key role in the plot; his reaction is very exaggerated, but it could strike a chord for kids and families who deal with allergies. There's not much in the way of language (one "oh my God"), but a character does wear a low-cut gown and fishnet stockings. All of that said, the movie offers a brave main character in the form of loyal, inventive Eggs, as well as positive messages about tolerance, family, standing up for yourself, and fighting for what's right.
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What's the story?
In the Victorian-esque town of Cheesebridge, the well-to-do citizens obsess over exotic cheeses and fret about the boxtrolls -- mysterious creatures who come out at night and are believed to be bloodthirsty, man-eating monsters. Their reputation is cemented when they carry off a crying baby one dark and stormy night, an incident that leads snobby, white-hatted Lord Portley-Rind (voiced by Jared Harris) to promise devious Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) his own white hat -- a symbol of town leadership -- if he exterminates the boxtrolls once and for all. Ten years later, the boxtrolls' numbers are dwindling rapidly, much to the dismay of Eggs (Isaac Hempstead Wright) ... aka the baby the trolls "ate" so long ago. Rather than make a meal out of the tot, the boxtrolls lovingly raised him as their own, teaching him their peaceful, scavenging, tinkering ways. Before the last of his adopted family falls victim to Snatcher and his minions, it's up to Eggs -- with the help of Portley-Rind's imperious, somewhat macabre daughter, Winnie (Elle Fanning) -- to save the day.
Is it any good?
From the creators of Coraline and ParaNorman, THE BOXTROLLS follows in its predecessors' impressive stop-motion footsteps. The animation is quite simply amazing, with incredible details coming together to form a rich, fully realized world. The filmmakers have said that each second of the finished movie took four days to film, and that's easy to believe; it's all so seamless that you actually forget it was created incrementally tiny movement by incrementally tiny movement. Which makes it even easier to get caught up in The Boxtrolls' fast-paced, exciting story (based on the novel Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow).
The Boxtrolls trades Coraline and ParaNorman's supernatural chills for a story that's not quite as creepy but is still full of peril and danger -- there's no sugar-coating or hand-holding in Eggs' world. The evil Snatcher is exceptionally nasty, with a look that may remind some of the frightening Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He's maniacal and relentless, and his just desserts, when they come, are as unpleasant as he is. But both Eggs and Winnie are up to the challenge of facing him; they have gumption and pluck aplenty. And the boxtrolls themselves are charming: Their cheerful approach to life and general good humor provide most of the movie's warmer, more upbeat moments. Like the Victorian era it seems to take place in, The Boxtrolls has a gritty, sinister side lurking just beneath its polished exterior; for kids who like their movies with a bit of edge, that may make it a perfect pick.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Eggs' statement that "Cheese, hats, boxes -- they don't make you. You make you!" What does that mean? How do people hide their true selves behind things -- perhaps not literally, as the boxtrolls do, but more figuratively?
What audience do you think The Boxtrolls is intended for? Is it too scary for younger kids? What aspects of the movie make it more mature than the average animated flick?
Snatcher's henchmen are conflicted about their role in his work/plan; they wonder whether they're good guys because they're following their boss' orders or villains because they're hurting potentially innocent creatures. What do you think? Is it always easy to tell what's right and what's wrong?
Winnie talks a lot about what a father is supposed to do -- most of which her own father doesn't. Who are the good dads in The Boxtrolls? How can you tell?
- In theaters: September 26, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: January 20, 2015
- Cast: Elle Fanning, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Ben Kingsley
- Directors: Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: action, some peril and mild rude humor
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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