Laika’s winning streak continues with the delightfully creative The Boxtrolls on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. This two-disc set from Shout Factory brings this incredibly entertaining film to 4K UHD with an incredible Dolby Vision transfer and Atmos audio mix to match and is fully stacked with some excellent bonus features. Highly Recommended
Since I pretty much agree 100% with our past coverage, I won't dither here too long beyond the moment to voice my complete enjoyment of this intensely creative film. Laika was on a tear in the 2010s throwing out one incredible piece of stop-motion animation after another. The Boxtrolls is another instant classic and an essential piece of any collection.
The film review is from my colleague M. Enois Duarte's 2015 The Box Trolls Blu-ray Review:
Wonderfully imaginative and wickedly delightful, with splashes of offbeat visual grandeur, 'The Boxtrolls' amuses and charms with a darkly comic story that surprisingly touches on adult themes about devious political collusions, the effects of the propaganda machine, and the dangers of preoccupied, negligent fathers. While these somber, possibly nightmare-producing matters do play an important aspect on the surface of the plot, enough to be the impetus which moves the story along, the filmmakers maintain the action light enough to enchant young audiences and thrill parents. But looking beyond that, families can feel gratified by the real heart of the tale, a good-natured message about not falling victim to the conniving machinations of others and knowing that change doesn't mean not being true to one's self. This is a good deal to cover for a children's flick, but animators deliver a challenging and fascinating charmer.
From the same folks that also brought us the darkly wondrous 'Coraline' and 'ParaNorman,' the Laika Studios production interestingly opens on an ominous note, as screams yell accusations of kidnapping, and we see an infant carried away in the middle of a stormy night by a creature wearing a ragged box. The very abrupt prologue not only adds a sense of mystery, but the presumed abduction becomes an opportunity for the grotesquely unkempt pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Ben Kingsley) to scheme a membership into the town's exclusive cheese-loving council. The outlandishly deformed weasel-like man promises the mayor and head of the White Hats Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) freedom from the hideous ravages of the boxtrolls by eradicating them all, which is to say he will commit genocide. He wins public support by misinforming people with tales of the creatures' hunger for flesh, especially the young.
The filmmakers quickly counter this with a cheerful montage showing the baby from earlier, which we later learn is named Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) after the box that barely covers his upper body, being cared for and loved by presumed monsters. In reality, the boxtrolls are peaceful creatures with an almost environmentally-conscious appetite for recycling garbage and a penchant for fixing or inventing useful things. One cardboard-wearing troll named Fish is the boy's primary caretaker, encouraging and egging on his creative side. After some time, Snatcher's effort begin to take their toll on the troll population, and on one night of scavenging, Eggs is discovered by the mayor's neglected but meddling daughter Winnie (Elle Fanning), leading to some predictable outcomes that thankfully don't ruin the film's overall value. The seriousness behind it all is always kept with a light-hearted appeal and humor, coming mostly from the funny pseudo-philosophical dialogue of Snatcher's henchmen.
Speaking of which, although the menacingly calculating machinations of Snatcher forcing his way through the social hierarchy is mostly responsible for providing the film's darkly solemn tone, parents can rest assure the fantasy adventure ends with a sprightly, cheerful message about the clothing not making the person. Very loosely based on the children's novel Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow, Adam Pava and Irena Brignull's script clever make this point by giving Snatcher a severe cheese allergy that cause him to repulsively swell. The animation work in these moments and several others is marvelous, arguably superior to the company's previous two efforts, particularly with the brilliantly expressive trolls carrying a great deal of emotion in their faces. Though 'The Boxtrolls' is a tad gloomier and serious, the film delivers with visual wonder and offbeat imagination, captivating the youngest while fascinating parents.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
The Boxtrolls packs up a brand new two-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release from Laika and Shout Factory. The 4K UHD is pressed on a BD-100 disc with the BD-50 disc is the exact same one previously issued in 2021. The discs are housed in a black two-disc case. The disc loads to a static image main menu with standard navigation options. Alos included is a ten-page booklet.
After the 4K releases of Coraline and ParaNorman, is it any surprise that The Boxtrolls is another winner on the format? The incredible amount of detail in every frame for Laika’s stop-motion delights makes them the perfect candidates for 4K and this film is no exception. From the surface world to the underground lair of the Boxtrolls, there’s a fantastic array of detail in the figures, clothing textures, and the world-building as a whole. The improvements over the 2021 Blu-ray are modest, but the subtle refinements in textures is most noticeable in the closeups for the various characters and the stitching in the fabrics. Dolby Vision (and HDR10) offer numerous enhancements in colors without dramatically changing the spectrum while giving blacks and contrast are spot-on without issue. As a 3-D mega fan, it’s tough for me to say, but I think this is the best you’re going to get for The Boxtrolls. Blacks are deep and inky with some lovely shades in shadows and lighting to give a nice three-dimensional appearance.
The Boxtrolls already had a pretty great DTS 5.1 track that was going to be tough to top, but this Atmos mix accomplishes that task. I really enjoyed the added height space Atmos gives the Boxtrolls’ lair. As they zip down and around their tubes, it’s a fully active and immersive effect. Likewise, the surface area with the towering buildings gives a wide open expansive feel with plenty of echoes and distinct object effect placement. Throughout the film, dialog, or in the case of the creatures - grunts and growls - are clean and clear without issue. The Dario Marianelli score really livens up the soundscape without overpowering the rest of the mix. All around, the whole track is a winner and a welcome upgrade over past releases.
The same excellent assortment of bonus features has been ported over. The audio commentary is well worth listening to as Annabel and Stacci are active participants with a wealth of input about the challenges of making the film. The smaller segments about various production aspects may be pretty brief, but they're still informative. The Feature Length Storyboards is another interesting addition to the package, but maybe not one completely worth sitting all the way through.
The Boxtrolls was a delight in 2014 when it hit theaters and nearly ten years later, the film still has all of the creative magic that only a Laika film can deliver. The stop-motion figures and the incredible world-building make a perfect fit for 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. The added details are appreciable while HDR enhancements leave this the best the film has looked on home video - and even I humbly admit a superior presentation to my much-loved 3D Blu-ray copy. Add an excellent Atmos audio track and a great assortment of in-depth and interesting bonus features and you have another excellent disc ready for the collection. Highly Recommended.