The Boxtrolls

Movie review by
Betsy Bozdech, Common Sense Media
The Boxtrolls Movie Poster Image
Imaginative adventure has lots of peril, nasty villain.
  • PG
  • 2014
  • 96 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 37 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 24 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie's central message revolves around the danger of making assumptions about what someone is like based on how they appear -- i.e. just because the boxtrolls look like "monsters" doesn't mean that they're evil or dangerous; the real monsters are those who set out to exterminate them because they're different. You are what you make of yourself. Characters also learn the importance of standing up for yourself and fighting back against injustice, changing/taking risks when to do otherwise puts yourself and others in peril, and embracing family wherever you find it. The fact that the central villain is motivated by envy and becomes even more resentful when he's snubbed by his "betters" illustrates why it's not a good idea to consider anyone "beneath" you. Snatcher's assistants raise a thorny (but thought-provoking!) moral issue when they debate the rightness of their actions helping Snatcher capture the boxtrolls -- are they good guys because they're following their boss' orders or villains because they're hurting potentially innocent creatures?

Positive Role Models & Representations

Eggs is brave and loyal; he cares deeply for his boxtroll family and will do whatever it takes to save them. He doesn't understand the nuances of polite human behavior (he bites and licks people inappropriately), but it's understandable -- and played for laughs. The trolls themselves are smart, caring, and resourceful; their natural pacifism puts them in danger from Snatcher and his minions, but they eventually learn to fight back when it counts. Winnie starts out as an imperious snob but gradually warms to Eggs, the boxtrolls, and their cause; she doesn't let anything get in her way when she's made a decision. Her father, Lord Portley-Rind, is totally oblivious to his daughter's needs (and pretty much everything else except tasting cheese...) but starts to see the error of his ways by the end of the movie. Snatcher is a creepy, bloodthirsty villain, but even his misdeeds are motivated by feelings that many people will understand: envy and the pain of being left out of something you desperately want to be part of.

Violence

(Spoiler alert!) Snatcher is very creepy and intimidating; his glee in capturing the boxtrolls -- and threatening anyone who gets in his way -- makes him seem unhinged. The scary extermination machine he invents is big, loud, fiery, smoky, and relentless; it causes chaos and destruction wherever it goes. The boxtrolls are at first presented in a way that might scare little viewers -- yellow eyes, hissing noises -- but they soon become much friendlier. Boxtrolls, including the ones Eggs is closest to, are captured and presumed dead on a few different occasions; most disturbing is a scene in which it appears that they've all been smashed flat. In their own home, some of the boxtrolls are electrocuted as they work on their gadgets, with no apparent harm. The film opens on a dark and stormy night, with a crying baby being carried away by boxtrolls (a scene that could upset younger kids until they realize the baby is OK). At the end of the movie, a key character explodes after ignoring a dangerous allergy that causes disturbing swelling, visions, and angry outbursts (an earlier episode is treated with leeches). Madame Frou Frou sings a strident song about killing the boxtrolls that gets the crowd worked up. Winnie is rather bloodthirsty, fixated on imagining -- and describing -- all the things the boxtrolls might do to her if they caught her. Lots of chases, falls, bonks, and bangs as characters flee, etc. Eggs and the boxtrolls eat live bugs with relish.

Sex

Popular performer Madame Frou Frou wears a lot of make-up, fishnet stockings, and a low-cut gown (though she isn't all she appears to be); her performance includes some flirty gestures and suggestive shimmying. Some lines about cheese are delivered in a way that sounds lascivious ("I like a raw brie"). Eggs scratches his privates in public (nothing graphic shown). He also kisses ladies' hands and licks one. The boxtrolls' naked behinds are shown in a couple of scenes near the end of the movie.

Language

One "oh my God." Sparing use of rude words like "brat" and a few stand-in words/expressions such as "mother of sausages!"

Consumerism

Well-to-do characters are obsessed with cheese, which seems to be the most valuable substance in town. Also lots of off-screen marketing/promotional tie-ins with a wide range of products, from eggs and raisins to fast food and toys.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters seem to become almost intoxicated by the various exotic cheeses they consume.

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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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6 and 8-year-old Written bysteffiNY October 13, 2014

Disappointing at best...grotesque, scary and very very dark

I am a little annoyed at myself because I usually check and double check the reviews here before I go to see a movie with my girls, but for this one we went in... Continue reading
Parent Written byParent 1 October 5, 2014

Nightmares... BIG TIME

My poor 7 year old was really freaked out by this movie. She hated the part when the villain exploded, and parts of him went flying everywhere. There are many o... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old October 12, 2014

I can't say why I saw it.

Seems basic, and very dull. It was basically just some green hybrids running around in boxes and a child Fry from Futurama.
Teen, 13 years old Written byMatan O. May 30, 2015

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?

Movie details

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