Friday, January 30, 2015

Blu-ray 3D Review: ‘The Boxtrolls’

Movie: ***** out of 5
Video: *****
Audio: ****
Extras: ****

Article first published as Blu-ray 3D Review: Laika’s Oscar-Nominated ‘The Boxtrolls’ on Blogcritics.

With the announcement of the 2015 Academy Award nominations, as much as it was a shock to see The LEGO Movie snubbed, it did give me hope for the second best of the year: The Boxtrolls. As good as How To Train Your Dragon 2 is, and as good as Song of the Sea or The Tale of the Princess Kaguya may be, at least we don’t have to worry about hearing the award going to Big Hero 6. Laika Studio’s hilarious stop-motion adaptation of Alan Snow’s Here Be Monsters! book is one of 2014’s most underrated animated features and wholeheartedly deserves to win. Following on the heels of Coraline and ParaNorman, Laika shows no signs of slowing down as they only seem to get better with each film and now The Boxtrolls is available in a 3D/2D/DVD/UltraViolet combo pack.

Boxtrolls, Laika, Academy Awards, Oscar-NominatedDirectors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi bring the town of Cheesebridge to life, where we meet the mischievous trolls, who have taken in a baby they name Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead Wright). While they may be living undiscovered below the city, the scheming Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kingsley) has made a deal with the city’s mayor Lord Portley-Rind (voiced by Jared Harris) to exterminate every last boxtroll in exchange for the chance to wear a coveted white hat. Adventure and hilarity ensue after Snatcher catches the boxtroll Fish (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) and Eggs must join forces with Portley-Rind’s daughter Winnie (voiced by Elle Fanning) to rescue Fish and the rest of the boxtrolls, and stop Snatcher’s bigger evil plans.

Universal Pictures brings The Boxtrolls to Blu-ray 3D in a stunningly perfect presentation, even with both the 3D and 2D on the same disc, plus all the special features — also in 3D. Every minute detail of the stop motion production shines flawlessly. Every stitch of the costumes to every wrinkle of facial features, there’s not one missing detail. As for the technical side, you name it, Boxtrolls doesn’t have it. Banding, noise, aliasing, crush? Nada. Perfect sums up the picture and that also goes for the 3D. Sparing the use of pop-out effects, the third dimension is used to fully envelop you into the animated world with depth in every scene, no matter the lighting. Ghosting or crosstalk are also non-existent. Demo disc through and through.

Unless you’re talking about the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. While dialogue is clean and crisp, and directionality is exact, there’s not as much surround ambiance as you’d expect. Not even the music is used to engulf viewers into the action. At least they use the rear speakers to keep directionality and panning in check when the action scenes kick in. Just don’t expect it to sound like you’re walking the streets or sewers of Cheesebridge.

Boxtrolls, Laika, Academy Awards, Oscar-NominatedThe special features may seem overwhelming, but they never wear out their welcome. The film itself features an audio commentary with the directors and they’ve also recorded a track for the “Preliminary Animatic Sequences” (17:29). This is broken into six segments: “Baby In the Trash,” “Eggs In the Underworld,” “Man on a Horse,” “Trubshaw’s Inventorium,” “Cheese Shop,” and “Tea & Cheese.” “Dare To Be Square” (32:48) consists of five EPK-styled making ofs with interviews of the cast and crew and behind the scenes footage: “Voicing the Boxtrolls,” “Inside the Box,” “The Big Cheese,” “Deconstructing the Dance,” and “Think Big: The Mecha Drill.” Five Featurettes (13:00) rounds out the extras: “The Nature of Creation,” “Trolls Right Off the Tongue,” “Allergic To Easy,” “Let’s Dance,” and “On the Shoulders of Giants.” 
The Boxtrolls is undoubtedly 2014’s most underrated animated feature even if LEGO is the reigning champ. Directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi do an amazing job at breathing life into the world of Cheesebridge, with screenwriters Irena Brignull and Adam Pava admirably condensing Snow’s novel down to 90-minutes from a 500+ page book. The voice cast is having a ball with Kingsley’s Snatcher and Tracy Morgan’s Mr. Gristle stealing the show. Fanning continues to show she’s the real star of the Fanning sisters and Wright manages to be far more likeable as Eggs than he is as Bran Stark on HBO’s Game of Thrones. Featuring an outstanding 3D presentation and some fun behind-the-scenes footage, The Boxtrolls is t, and demands a spot in every home video library.

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