In my book, the two kinds of films that are most "review-proof" are action movies and kids' movies.
In my book, the two kinds of films that are most “review-proof” are action movies and kids’ movies.
In both cases, negative reviewers are dismissed as grumpy killjoys — and, as a Rotten Tomatoes contributor, I can tell you, there are plenty of grumpy killjoys in this business.
But the cries are generally “You don’t get it! It’s supposed to just be dumb action fun!” or “You don’t get it! It’s supposed to just be a cute diversion for the kids!”
But, I mean, my job as a critic is to be, y’know, critical, so if I’m doing my job with “The Boxtrolls,” I’ve gotta say this. Storytelling matters in a movie. A lot. It’s what separated Pixar in the early days, and it’s what’s wrong with this movie.
The Boxtrolls are a race of adorable little trolls who wear adorable boxes to cover their trollbits. In the town of Cheesebridge, they are feared by the townspeople as child-snatchers.
The reality is that the Boxtrolls are raising an orphaned human boy named (after his box) Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Wright).
Meanwhile, the villainously named villain Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) is trying to gain clout among the townspeople on a platform of rounding up the Boxtrolls.
OK, not every kids’ movie can be a Pixar movie, but the reason I made that comparison? This is the third movie from the stop-motion animation company Laika, whose previous movies (“Coraline” and “ParaNorman”) were putting them on-course to be the next great studio.
You can’t fault the visuals. The (mostly) stop-motion animation is a visual delight. There’s something charming about the sense that these are (mostly) real things being manipulated (mostly) by hand. (There is some assistance from computer animation here, but it’s 2014, not “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”)
But with all that and a great voice cast (Kingsley, Jared Harris, Nick Frost and a little Simon Pegg), the plot is plodding. The whole affair is just lacking heart — if not lacking in literal cheese, as the food plays its own role).
There’s a collection of fine moments here, and, yes, the kids will be pleasantly distracted. But it could have been so much more. Here’s hoping for next time, Laika.