Based on the novel Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow, The Boxtrolls is a rollicking stop-motion animated romp from the makers of Coraline and ParaNorman that proves weird can be truly wonderful.
With faint echoes of Raymond Briggs’ Fungus The Bogeyman, Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi’s quirky fantasy imagines a race of subterranean creatures, who root through bins in search of spare parts for their mechanical creations.
Despite a hearty appetite for slimy bugs, these pungent, green-skinned denizens of the underworld are cute rather than scary, possessing relatable human traits such as a passion for music or a quivering fear of the unknown.
They spare troll blushes by wearing empty cardboard boxes and the former contents of these mouldering cartons provide each expressive character with a name such as Fish, Knickers, Sweets, Clocks and Fragile (ho ho!).
The meticulous detail of the moveable figures and miniature sets is impressive, and co-directors Annable and Stacchi corral a vast team of animators, who produce thrilling chases and quieter moments of ribald humour.
The well-to-do, Victorian-era city of Cheesebridge is visited under the cloak of darkness by the eponymous beasties.
One dark night, a Boxtroll called Fish (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) kidnaps the infant son of a local inventor (Simon Pegg) and spirits away the child to the underground lair.
This shocking act plays into the grubby hands of pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher (Sir Ben Kingsley).
“Prepare to say bye-bye to your brie, cheerio to your cheddar!” cackles Snatcher, striking fear into the heart of Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) and the other fromage-fixated noblemen.
They grant Snatcher a place at the cheese-tasting top table if the exterminator and his henchmen - Mr Trout (Nick Frost), Mr Pickles (Richard Ayoade) and Mr Gristle (Tracy Morgan) - kill every last Boxtroll.
Unaware that he is human, abducted boy Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) ventures above ground with the Boxtrolls and encounters Lord Portley-Rind’s snooty daughter, Winnie (Elle Fanning).
She initially believes the horror stories about Boxtrolls devouring children - “Eat me. I’m sure I’m delicious!” - but once Winnie learns the truth about Eggs’ past, she agrees to help vanquish Snatcher and his snivelling cohorts.
The Boxtrolls is a delight for the young and young at heart, hinging on the notion that families come in all shapes and sizes.
Irena Brignull and Adam Pava’s script is laden with verbal and visual gags, striking a gently mischievous tone throughout like when Winnie spots Eggs tugging at the crotch of his uncomfortable suit and whispers, “Don’t snatch them in public. That’s why they are called privates!”
Frost, Ayoade and Morgan provide the majority of the comic relief between action-packed set-pieces.
Remain seated during the end credits for a hilarious scene of existential angst, which succinctly reminds us how pain-staking and time-consuming the stop-motion animation process is.