Stop-motion animated fantasy The Boxtrolls comes to the big screen.
THE BOXTROLLS (PG)
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.
Theatre director Matthew Warchus, who succeeds Kevin Spacey as artistic director of the Old Vic in London next year, will need to de-clutter his awards-laden mantelpiece.
His second feature film is a barnstorming culture-clash comedy drama based on the inspirational true story of a group of gays and lesbians, who supported the miners during the 1984 strike and raised thousands of pounds for beleaguered communities, which dared to stand up to the Thatcher government.
This uplifting story of solidarity in the face of adversity and police intimidation is an absolute joy; an unabashed, irresistible crowd-pleaser in the magnificent mould of The Full Monty and Billy Elliot that rouses the audience to bellowing laughter while choking back a deluge of hot, salty tears.
Pride embraces and subverts stereotypes, deftly weaving together stories of personal triumph and anguish as the spectre of Aids casts a long shadow over the gay community.
Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) is the charismatic and outspoken leader of young, impassioned campaigners, who operate out of the Gay’s The Word bookshop in London run by Gethin (Andrew Scott).
Reading news stories about the miners strike, Mark recognises a cause to champion.
“Mining communities are being bullied just like we are,” he tells his coterie comprising Mike (Joseph Gilgun), Jonathan (Dominic West), Jeff (Freddie Fox), Steph (Faye Marsay) and closeted new boy, Joe (George MacKay).
They form LGSM – Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners – and rattle tins for a randomly selected Welsh community.
Mining representative Dai (Paddy Considine) invites Mark and co to the Dulais Valley where committee members Hefina (Imelda Staunton), Cliff (Bill Nighy) and Sian (Jessica Gunning) embrace the fundraisers with open arms.
However, some of the locals are repulsed.
“We’re being backed up by perverts,” sneers homophobic mother Maureen (Lisa Palfrey), kindling conflict between some of the neighbours and the LGSM.
Pride is a life-affirming ode to tolerance, acceptance and self-belief that defiantly lives up to its title, waving a flag for stellar home-grown filmmaking.
Performances are exemplary, ignoring a few wobbles with the Welsh accents, including a fiery turn from Schnetzer as a fresh-faced trailblazer and sobs aplenty from Mackay as the catering student, who cannot conceal his sexuality forever.
Scriptwriter Stephen Beresford strikes a perfect balance between hilarity and heartbreak, sharing polished one-liners among the ensemble cast including Menna Trussler as a clucky old dear, who labours under the illusion that all lesbians are vegetarians.
Warchus’ film builds to a rousing crescendo that delivers a knock-out emotional wallop and opens the floodgates.
As Frankie Goes To Hollywood professed during that turbulent summer of 1984: “When two tribes go to war/A point is all you can score.”
The characters in Pride score their points with unbridled passion and wit.