The Stressful Adventures of Boxhead and Roundhead: Film Review

The Stressful Adventures of Boxhead and Roundhead: Film Review

The film review for the independent 2D feature by Elliot Cowan.  See also the Q&A of Elliot Cown with Zippy Frames.

They are mainly black and white, defined by their own geometrical shapes, and care for each other. Boxhead and Roundhead, the brainchildren of Australian independent animator Elliot Cowan, have matured from their own hilarious (but philosophical) shorts to a full animated feature.

In The Stressful Adventures of Boxhead and Roundhead, practical and responsible Boxheand and his artistic but careless pal Roundhead head for the big city, after their home has been destroyed by a monster attack. Being used to these attacks, but still homeless, Boxhead and Roundhead learn that they can get compensation for the damage and a new home. What more could they ask?

After a rather haphazard (but narratively underdeveloped) series of jungle and sea adventures, they finally arrive to the filthy Tipp City, which looks like an animated (but less dangerous) version of Blade Runner.

Boxhead and Roundhead agree to get out as quickly as this can from this hostile city, whose consumerism (Buy that thing is written all over on its building walls) seems antiquated and greasy at the same time; as if urbanism suddenly went haywire.

To their regret, paperwork and a 9000$ registration fee is necessary for compensation. Boxhead and Roundhead need to finally get involved with the inhospitable residents of the city.

A kind but desolate Mr. Urso, whose individuality and artistic (if idiosyncratic) temperament suits Roundheand, is ready to offer help; Boxhead, on the other hand, needs to find legal ways to get the most of the city.

The narrative starts as a buddy road movie, but thankfully settles as a critique of urbanism, with a mysterious cleaning janitor unsettling the infamous Tipp City.

The plot is not a series of adventures (despite the title), and Boxhead and Roundhead do not just utter philosophical fragments against all odds (but when they do, they do it delightfully); they become players in the mystery and the salvation attempt of the erstwhile beautiful city.

The film is delightful, enjoyable and its best moments remind of Don Hertzfeldt's It's Such A Beautiful Day. Yet, Cowan is more sympathetic to his characters -he's also Roundhead, while Jeremy Beck admiringly voices Boxhead- and believes in social causes and the Snowball effect of doing good.

The Australian rock-punk band The Gadflys provide songs for the energetic soundtrack, yet what shines in this indie feature (funded by the Romanian National Centre of Cinema) is its unwillingness to talk animation in a big, well-ordered way.

Tall but discordant buildings, unruly shapes and a story of a friendship that wants to change the world motivate and finally impose their own rules in the animated feature.

The story has been told many times before, but is charming and well-made in Elliot Cowan's new film.

 Vassilis Kroustallis

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