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The Boxtrolls (LAIKA Studios Edition) (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

An orphan boy is raised by underground, sewer-dwelling trolls who are now under attack by a villainous exterminator in a Victorian-era town that loves cheese, their class divides, and their children as much as they despise the trolls in this stop-motion animation adaptation of the Alan Snow novel 'Here Be Monsters!'.

The Boxtrolls is a stop-motion adaptation of Alan Snow’s Dickensian novel Here Be Monsters! By directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi for LAIKA studios (Coraline, ParaNorman).

Set in the Victorian-era town of Cheesebridge where the townspeople are obsessed with class, fine cheeses, and the protection of their children, a young boy is raised by by the sewer dwelling Boxtrolls, the ghoulish-looking creatures who wear cast-off cardboard boxes that people of Cheesebridge believe steal their children at night and eat them. That is the legend anyway, the truth is something different. The Boxtrolls are gentle, fun-loving creatures who do nothing more than come out at night to scavenge, and tinker in their underground world. The young boy they raise as one of their own, Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Wright), grows up believing himself to be a Boxtroll, until they are all targeted by the villainous Boxtroll exterminator Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley), who uses the opportunity to eliminate the Boxtrolls as part of his scheme to move up into the world of the elites, with the likes of Lord Portley-Rind (voiced by Jared Harris) and his circle of White Hat wearing fine cheese enthusiasts. When Portley-Rind’s young daughter Winnie (voiced by Elle Fanning) enters Eggs’ world he is confronted with the reality of being a boy and not a Boxtroll and Snatcher sees their newfound friendship as a key to resolving the issue between the Boxtrolls below and the people above once and for all – to his benefit of course.

The Boxtrolls is a clever if sometimes a little convoluted look at Victorian class issues in a modern Dickensian twist. As usual, the folks at LAIKA deliver brilliant stop-motion work that stands toe-to-toe with any 3DCGI animated film and in many instances maybe looks even more organic due to the nature of the process.

This story, while lacking some of the wonder and suspense of a film like Coraline, is still fun to sit through and watch and does not ever feel like it is playing to strictly young audiences, like the best of what PIXAR does, the youngsters can an enjoy this film and the screenplay has enough complexities for adults to find it interesting on another level. Add to this juicy voice performances by Kingsley and Harris, with the youngsters Fanning and Hempstead-Wright also doing a bang-up job and The Boxtrolls is a strong film.

The Video

The Boxtrolls comes to Blu-ray newly restored in an AVC 1080p encodement and framed at 1.78:1. The film’s stills were taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III. The colors and textures in this film do not stand out as much as Coraline, the other LAIKA Studios Edition being released on the same date alongside this one, therefore it doesn’t quite dazzle as much, but it looks equally pristine and three-dimensional. The reds in the Red Hats like Snatcher, for instance, aren’t bright, fire engine reds, but a duller, less eye-catching sort of red. Things like flames present nicely and show good contrast against dark backgrounds.

The Audio

This was available in theaters with an Atmos mix, but in this LAIKA Studios Edition from Shout! me get only a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, which is a very good one and better than some Atmos mixes to be honest. The sounds are balanced well with lots of action mixed through the surrounds, but not in a constant barrage of sounds, just as accents to highlight moments on screen. The dialogue is clear and low end is deep enough to lend this mix a good, robust bottom, but not enough to rattle the floorboards anytime soon.

The Supplements

This LAIKA Studios Edition is packed with features covering the production of the film, from animating the stop-motion to the designing the different characters. There’s also a wonderful commentary with the directors worth listening to, and for the really hardcore animation fans and cinephile the new feature-length storyboards gives a peek at the early process.

  • Commentary with Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
  • NEW Inside LAIKA: Discovering the Characters of The Boxtrolls (1080p; 00:09:33)
  • NEW Inside LAIKA: Revisiting the Puppets with LAIKA’s Animation Team (1080p):
    • Pickles & Mr. Trout (00:01:37)
    • Lord Portley-Rind (00:01:13)
    • Archibald Snatcher (00:01:52)
    • Winnie (00:01:21)
    • Fish & Shoe (00:01:59)
    • Eggs (00:01:23)
  • NEW Feature-Length Storyboards
  • NEW Forward (booklet) by Ramin Zahed, the Editor in Chief of Animation Magazine
  • Dare to Be Square: Behind the Scenes of The Boxtrolls (1080p; 00:33:17):
    • Voicing The Boxtrolls
    • Inside the Box
    • The Big Cheese: Allergy Snathcer
    • Deconstructing the Dance
    • Think Big: The Mecha Drill
  • The Nature of Creation (1080p; 00:02:54)
  • Trolls Right off the Tongue (1080p; 00:02:47)
  • Allergic to Easy (1080p; 00:02:58)
  • Let’s Dance (00:01:57)
  • On the Shoulders of Giants (1080p; 00:02:29)
  • Still Galleries – Character Art, Concept Art, and Behind the Scenes Galleries (1080p)
  • Trailer (1080p)

The Final Assessment

The Boxtrolls in the LAIKA Studios Edition is a must-own release. It’s a great looking film with awe-inspiring animation that’s fun for the whole family and feature rich. Highly recommended.

The Boxtrolls (LAIKA Studios Edition) is out on Blu-ray+DVD August 31, 2021 from Shout! Factory


  • Rating Certificate: PG (for action, some peril and mild rude humor)
  • Studios & Distributors: Focus Features (presents) (uncredited) | Laika Entertainment | Shout! Factory
  • Director: Graham Annable | Anthony Stacchi
  • Written By: Irena Brignull (screenplay) | Adam Pava (screenplay) | Alan Snow (novel) | Anthony Stacchi (story adapted by) | Phil Dale (story adapted by)
  • Run Time: 96 Mins.
  • Street Date: 31 August 2021
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Secondary Audio: Spanish DTS 5.1 | French DTS 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH | Spanish | French
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