Coraline - Movie Review
By Ron Wilkinson Feb 6, 2009, 16:55 GMT
In Coraline\'s family\'s new flat are twenty-one windows and fourteen doors. Thirteen of the doors open and close. The fourteenth is locked, and on the other side is only a brick wall, until the day Coraline unlocks the door to find a passage to another flat in another house just like her own. Based on the book by Neil Gaiman. ...more
Yes, it comes off as an “Alice in Wonderland” copy but it’s still fun viewing for the whole family. The 3-D gimmick never gets old and director Selick uses it with style
“Coraline” mixes the direction of fantasist Henry Selick (“The Nightmare Before Christmas”) with the screenwriting of author Neil Gaiman (“Sandman”) and bakes the two into a 3-D film that is fun to watch but not the thrill of a lifetime. Even though the 3-D gimmick is as corny as ever, it never gets too old to be enjoyed every now and then. Selick and Gaiman use it well in this film by not clobbering the audience over the head with 3-D effects and the result is worth seeing. Although many adults are not fans of fantasy film making this movie is notable for both its accessibility and good taste. It is entertaining viewing for the whole family with a good hearted morale of mutual understanding between generations.
In the beginning of the film eleven year old Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is forced into that worst of all tortures perpetuated by parents: moving. She is exiled to an isolated country manse in a lonely forest (Western Oregon—the home of the dripping pine fronds) so her parents can work on writing their book; hence the child/parent stress (her mother and the evil “other mother” are voiced by Teri Hatcher who does a bang-up job). What’s more, the parents ignore her completely, forcing her to find her own enjoyment (and ours) with the characters populating the old house.
This gives Gaiman the vehicle to design the crazy ex-show biz girls Miss Spink and Miss Forcible (voices by Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French) and the wild circus acrobat and strong man Mr. Bobinsky (voice by Ian McShane). The Cat character by Keith David is a long way from Disney’s iconic Cheshire Cat, but perhaps it’s an unfair comparison. At first stand-offish and arrogant, in the end Cat turns out to be girl’s best friend. In fact, the entire film is populated by characters out of “Through the Looking Glass” that are fun and, of course, completely over the top.
Coraline befriends a boy (voice by Robert Bailey Jr.) who tells her his parents won’t let him go near the house her family has rented. This is because of the strange disappearance of the children who used to live there. When a tunnel appears behind a secret door, Coraline has to make a choice. Should she enter the tunnel and ignore all manner of good sense, braving the reverse universe of synthetic, negative energy on the other side? Duuuhhh---you bet she will. And boy are we glad she did.
Like many a truant child, Coraline eventually finds that she regrets leaving her parents behind, no matter how idiotic they are. In fact, it turns out to be up to her to save them. Like many a kid-friendly movie, the4 children and the adults change places. The eleven year old Coraline has both the wisdom and the judgment, not to mention the creativity. Her book-writing parents don’t seem to have much of anything except a desire to keep their faces stuck in their typewriters.
Director/writers Selick and Gaiman invent some great contraptions in the film, such as the garden tractor that morphs into the dragon creature in the alternate universe behind the wall. Chase scenes work well in 3-D as the fleeing Coraline runs right into your lap with the snuffling and tromping riding dinosaur lawn tractor and the evil “other father” smash the very ground to pieces as they close in on the poor gutsy girl.
The beginning of the film is fantastic, the soundtrack, animation and clever use of 3-D are great. So are the character intros in the first half. But the film can't keep up the pace through the middle and three-quarter times through to the end. By the 75 minute mark of the 100 minute animated extravaganza the lost parents plot is simply tiring---find the parents and let's get this over with!
But having said that, the clarity of the graphics is absolutely sterling, the voices are perfect and the soundtrack, overall, is good. Very reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland but not quite that good (what is?). Great family film but the little ones may fall asleep half way through.
Directed by: Henry Selick
Written by: Henry Selick (screenplay) Neil Gaiman (book)
Starring: Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher (voices)
Release: February 6, 2009
MPAA: Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, some language and suggestive humor
Runtime: 101 minutes