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OK America, before you go blindly into an animated film with your young
children, why don't you do a little research on what they are about to
witness. A PG rating and stop-motion animated aesthetic do not always
make a child-friendly adventure. Based upon the horror novella by
acclaimed author Neil Gaiman, Henry Selick's Coraline is chockfull of
heavy material, dark story threads, and bleak possibilities. For a guy
like me, those things equal undivided success; for a child aged ten,
those things equal nightmare filled evenings and parents writing angry
letters to Focus Features for subjecting their children to lewd and
horrific imagery. Well guess what parents? No one is to blame but you.
I'm not saying keep all youngsters away, but do use some discretion on
whether your son or daughter can handle the fantastical elements. This
is very much Alice in Wonderland displayed in all its non-Disney
possibilities. A cautionary tale on being careful what you wish for,
our heroine must discover the difference between a world of people
neglecting her and that of people doing all they can so that they may
give her all she could ever want in the future. Life is not about
getting it all right now, but instead a slow and steady climb built on
love and trust, one whose benefits far outweigh the whirlwind romance
that is never truly as it seems.
Remember folks, this is a story that won the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers; it's not all sing-songy like Selick's masterpiece A Nightmare Before Christmas. With that said, however, it is very, very good in a very, very different way. Be prepared for a methodically and deliberately paced story. More psychological terror than jump out at you scares, the tale of Coraline escaping into a parallel world, perfectly mirrored of her own only inhabited by animated dolls, is one of enlightenment and discovery of what love truly means. Do we all want the parents that dote on us? The guardians that will do what we want and when we want it? Of course we do. But that idyllic utopia doesn't exist, especially in the times for which we live today. Children need to be raised and supported and that takes money and a lot of hard work. What may seem like neglect in the eyes of a child is really two people doing all they can, sacrificing their time, in order to give him/her a chance at success. Only when Coraline sees the manipulation and truth behind the "kindness" her Other-Mother gives her does she realize what she has back at home.
What we are shown is a world through a tiny door in the wall of an old triple-segmented home. There are stories about this door used to explain the disappearances of some local children, including the sister of loudmouthed and shy Wybie Lovat's grandmother. Only a weathered black cat appears to know what is going on, what the too good to be true farce beyond the door is actually masking behind it. This cat can travel between worlds and therefore knows it all, allowing him to warn Coraline by orchestrating events via those she encounters. A disgruntled child is easily malleable and fooled when doted upon and given sweets and a smile. The mantra "never talk to strangers" is never more applicable than it is here. With something a tad off-kilter in the fantasy world, Coraline finds herself shaking it off and relishing the opportunity to experience all that she had dreamed of, not knowing that if her parents succeed with their new gardening catalog, those dreams will be fulfilled in reality. Patience is a virtue and youngsters unfortunately don't learn that fact until they are all grown up, finding ways to apologize to their parents for being such confused and naïve monsters.
With some very nice voiceworkDakota Fanning shines as our titular heroine; Keith David's baritone brings the cat's mixture of foreboding and help to life and Robert Bailey Jr. gets the nervous tick and stammer on the nose for Wybie, (short for WhyBorn, now that's a name you hope your parents never considered)you do find yourself enveloped in this world. A rare thing for an animated film to begin with a cast listing, it thankfully doesn't detract from the escapism by making you think of the actor rather than the character. This fact works best with the mother, played by Teri Hatcher. I would never have been able to pick her voice out, but that just enhances it all the more, breathing life into the stop-motion clay form on screen, becoming the wolf in sheep's clothing villain necessary for it all to work.
Definitely soak in the aesthetic and intelligent storytelling as Coraline is for a thoughtful audience willing to delve deep into metaphors and hidden meaning. There is no "approved for your Attention Deficit Disorder child" stamp of approval here. In much the opposite direction, don't be surprised if your child hates you for making them sit through it. However, it is a tale that will resonate for a portion of the public, hitting on their own feelings of selfishness and wanting the spoils without the work. When your child is intellectually mature enough to handle a rich and deep story, you as a parent will know. When he or she can see a couple of big-bosomed, large older women dressed as mermaids with pasties and not laugh or get uncomfortable, that is when you should let them see Coraline. It is ultimately a film for all ages; one that shows you as adults how it all will get betterjunior will one day understand the sacrifices you are makingand you children a fantastical world to escape to with consequences that will shake you into the realization of what you have right in front of you at home.
Henry Selick, the director of " The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "James and the Giant Peach", once again takes us to a world full of imagery and wonder...but this time...some of it is actually frightening. It was filled with such magic and enchantment that I completely forgot that it was a dark tale..until the occasional scares filled the air. It has some highly fun and amusing characters in it also, and that is the strongest thing of the movie. After viewing it, I came to the conclusion it was basically an "Alice in Wonderland" tale (girl entering new and strange world, plus the cat that talks makes it obvious) but this world has a dark twist. Filled with a great cast and terrific visionary, I feel this movie is fun for all ages (who says kiddos shouldn't be scared?)
Feisty eleven-year-old Coraline walks through a secret door and
discovers a parallel reality. That reality is sort of similar to the
life she already knows yet deeply unsettling in a number of ways.
Coraline (voice of Dakota Fanning) begins a journey of adventure and
self discovery when her parents (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman)
relocate the family to Oregon from Michigan. No one in this new space
has time for her so she spends her time exploring her new neighborhood
with an talkative local boy named Wybie Lovat (Robert Bailey Jr.).
After discovering the odd neighbors all of whom are true characters,
she is still bored somehow.
All of this immense undertaking is courtesy writer and director Henry Selick, director of Nightmare Before Christmas, and the well crafted adaptation of Neil Gaiman's international best-selling children's novel. To Selick's credit this is the first 3D stop motion ever made; stereoscopic 3D. Selick himself worked on the film for three years. The style is stunning and the story is an unwavering fairy-tale nightmare that has some genuinely scary moments. is a masterful movie and an exciting tale of mystery and imagination.
In the rotting nooks and crannies of Coraline's new home the real story begins and where she discovers a hidden doorway behind the wallpaper. Inside is her alternate space where there are doubles of her distracted parents now lavish loving attention on Coraline, the oddball neighbors are friendlier, and her pesky friend long longer speaks. Only her parents' eyes now black buttons give a clue that something isn't quite right.
Selick has created a world as much for adults as children as there are references dotted throughout that the young won't understand. The imagery, however, is very child like. Both talents live side by side and bodes well for Selick's previous work in Nightmare before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and even Monkeybone. His work has always been fascinating. Gaiman is to be credited with the story for sure, but this is Selick through and through. This film is sure to become an instant classic and as well executed as this movie is it should be.
Almost 3 weeks ago, I attended a screening from Ain't It Cool News to
see Henry Selick's latest film, 'Coraline.' I was excited because the
screening would showcase the film in 3-D technology, and there was the
chance to do a Q&A with Director Henry Selick (unfortunately due to bad
weather, Mr. Selick did not make it to our screening).
Before going in to see 'Coraline,' I had read the book on which the film was based. While many acclaimed it for it's storyline, I found it rather dull and predictable. I've been surrounded by fans of Neil Gaiman's work, though so far had never picked up a book written by him (though 'American Gods' did pique my interest).
Going into the film, I was not quite sure what to expect. I had had tastes of the film from the trailers, but the general consensus was that Henry Selick had tarnished Gaiman's story, turning it into 'Disney fodder.' The truth is: the film manages to be both charming and creepy.
For those not in the know, "Coraline" tells the tale of Coraline Jones, who moves to a new town and a house with several strange characters. As well, Coraline's parents just seem to have no time for her, and so she takes to exploring her new abode by herself. In her exploration, she uncovers a small door in the house, which seems to lead to nowhere. But upon revisiting the door late at night, it opens onto a parallel world that is much more whimsical and fun than the real world.
The one difference is that in the 'Other World,' almost all the inhabitants have buttons for eyes. But still, the other parents in this world pay attention to Coraline, and the rather blasé atmosphere of the real world is electrified with color and interesting flights of fancy. It seems just so perfect...or is it? Henry Selick manages to take Neil Gaiman's story, and crafts a world that just seems to take great advantage of stop-motion in a world where the obvious choice would be to go for a totally computer-generated world. Seeing minute details such as Coraline's clothing made of actual material makes the world seem even more magical, where invisible giants manipulate the Lilliputians in this miniature world.
Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, and a number of other vocal actors give voice to a number of wonderful characters, with Hatcher really doing double and triple-duty with her vocal talents. Fanning on the other hand, fleshes out a character that seemed rather dull in Gaiman's work. Her voice gives Coraline the life that I didn't think was possible.
One unsung hero (along with the countless animators who will be passed over in the press junkets) is the composer, Bruno Corlais. Mr. Corlais had never crossed my ears until the screening, but his music lends a touch of brilliance to the film, and makes it seem almost like a European production. Growing up in he US in the early 80's, I saw a number of stop-motion productions from Europe that played on the Nickelodeon show 'Pinwheel.' Corlais' music just transported me to that simpler of times when music didn't need to be 'commercial.' His score really helps to establish the world as well, and uses some instruments that may sound foreign to American ears.
And if anyone is questioning if the 3-D is worth it-it is! This isn't the fly-in-your-face #-D that was seen 2-3 decades ago. It's subtler, but gives dimension to the miniature world of 'Coraline.' I think if you showed this film to a child in 3-D, they'd go home dreaming of creating their own little worlds of stop-motion puppets.
For the year 2009, 'Coraline' so far (as of 2/6/09), is my first enjoyable film experience. I'm hoping my other upcoming film hopefuls (Watchmen, Up, Transformers 2) will also make me feel as positive.
i went into this movie knowing 1 thing. It was by the same guy who did
Nightmare Before Christmas. so right away i knew i was in for a pretty
great movie visually, if nothing else.
as it turns out, the musical score was amazing, as well as the 3-D animation and the storyline.
to those who think it won't be as creepy as the book. i can't say much for the book, having not read it. but i can say that the movie is pretty creepy in it's own right! all i can say is that i'm going to see it again when it opens. probably for a 3rd and 4th time as well.
for those who are looking for a good time with the kids, i highly recommend this. for those who are looking for a good 'trip' movie, i highly recommend this. and for those who think the magic in movies are gone, PULL-EEEZ go see this!
When i saw a teaser of this film i didn't imagine it would be a
fantasy/horror movie for kids. That's great because there aren't many,
and it must be difficult to display a colorful world with the right
amount of frightening elements not to leave a child having bad dreams
up to adulthood.
Coraline is a girl who wishes she'd had more attention from her parents, a prettier place to live and better neighbors. After she discovers the entrance to an apparently enhanced version of her reality, she'll soon find out that too much perfection can't be real.
Good and imaginative story, delighting visuals, creepiness from the beginning and a couple scary scenes make this an enjoyable film.
As a Neil Gaiman fan, I was, of course, very happy with the book
"Coraline", and was extremely excited to hear that a movie was being
made for it. I had very high expectations from director Henry Selick
after seeing 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' and 'James and the Giant
I was not disappointed.
It followed the book surprisingly closely, though there were a few anomalies (the character of Wybie, for instance, didn't exist in the book). It had that Tim Burton-esquire feel about it; terrifying, but in an entertaining sort of way. There were one or two scenes which were a little over-the-top for younger children, but that's to be expected.
You could just tell from the opening scene alone that you were in for a treat. Hauntingly beautiful, well choreographed, and, plain and simple, a bit terrifying; it really hooked your attention and promised a good time.
However, there were two problems throughout the movie that I could spot:
One was that some scenes were a little choppy in the animation; almost like they hadn't quite taken enough pictures to make it run smoothly. Unfortunately, with stop-motion animation, this is difficult to avoid, and it isn't overly distracting anyway.
The other was Coraline's mother was a little... angry. Yes, she's supposed to be constantly frustrated and such, but I think she went a little overboard. Fortunately, Teri Hatcher redeemed herself with her portrayal of the Other Mother, which was brilliant.
Coraline earns a 9.5 out of 10.
I had no intention of seeing this, but my friend and I were bored on a
Friday night and I had free tickets to a movie theater. The only movie
playing at 9:30 at night was Coraline. I had heard of the book before,
but I never read it so I didn't know what to expect.
The animation was amazing. Every character looked awesome and had so much detail to them. With the 3-D, nothing really popped out of you, but it just gave it an extra depth that made it more real. I think it was so cool.
The movie was really cute. If you haven't read the book, it'll keep you in suspense. I really enjoyed the movie and recommend you see it. :)
Henry Selick's "Coraline" is a smart adaptation of Neil Gaiman's extremely popular award-winning novella. Selick's screenplay is excellent and faithful without being a carbon-copy of Gaiman's story, and Selick adds some of his own dialogue to the film, so his contribution is most certainly not only visual, and chooses which dialogue to use from the novel wisely. Less of a horror story than the novella and more of a dark fantasy, "Coraline" features a well-written and well-drawn lead character and brings the novel's bizarre world to life without compromise. The film's fantasy world grows more bizarre each time we see it, and is as discomforting as it is fun. I missed the singing rats from the novella, but this was more than compensated for by the visual splendor of the garden scene, and there are numerous other examples of the changes from the novel making total sense as Selick's vision of the story differs from Gaiman, but doesn't betray the original work of art, only compliments it. The voice cast is very good and one cannot praise the spectacular animation enough. I was very pleased with the 3D presentation here, it was very, very rarely (only once or twice) used as a 'cool effect', and overall was very tastefully used to give the visuals more depth. Perhaps the first really good film to have a wide release in 2009, and looking at the next few weeks I see more than one film I'm moderately interested in, so this might end up being a pretty good year.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Henry Selick's latest movie, and his first in 8 years is a true treat.
It was excellent in every way, except for the emotional punch, which
wasn't even really necessary. The 3-D is very good, and without the
3-D, though the movie would lack the depth, it still would stand out.
It is the visuals that make this movie so great, but the characters,
plot and music are all top notch too, which add up to a fantastic film.
Coraline (Dakota Fanning) and her family have just moved, and Coraline is bored. She has no friends in this new place, and her parents are quite intent on ignoring her. The only other kid that lives close by, Wyborn (Robert Bailey Jr.), is irritating to Coraline, and she finds the dolls in her room to be better friends. After Wyborn gives Coraline a doll that looks like her, strange occurrences begin to happen. Coraline finds a small door leading to an alternate, seemingly perfect universe where her button eyed parents feed her good food and give her presents for no reason. This universe is not all that it seems, and Coraline learns this the hard way.
Henry Selick has always been about the visuals. His first film, "The Nightmare Before Christmas", showed that his knack was for the sights, and amazingly, his animation and style has evolved. "Coraline" is just as good looking as any of his past works, if not more so, and the animation has gotten better and crisper. Every little set, and every character is bizarrely designed to fit into this surreal movie.
The main critique for this film seems to be that it has no emotion in it. Though emotions aren't a prominent aspect of Coraline, there is emotion. Coraline doesn't have a clicking relationship with her mom and dad, but that's why she loves the other mother and father so much. Coraline as a character has enough emotion to be the lead to a film like this. This wasn't meant to be a tear jerker animation. It was clearly made to bring Neil Gaiman's strange plot to life with dazzling animation.
Doing the music is Bruno Coulais, and briefly They Might Be Giants. Mr. Coulais's score is beautiful, and strange, and most importantly, fitting. The music sounds how Coraline should sound, and it is a great listen. It is easily comparable to Danny Elfman's score for "The Nightmare Before Christmas". They both have catchy, sad and unique music all rolled into one. They Might Be Giants also wrote a song, which is nice sounding, though nowhere near as catchy or lovely as Coulais.
If I had any problem with this film, it would be that it didn't dive far enough into the alternate universe, but even that didn't lower the movie in my opinion. This was an excellent animated film, and is one that can actually be qualified as a family film, in that all members of the family can and probably will enjoy this.
My rating: *** 1/2 out of ****. 100 mins. PG for mild language, violence and mildly sexual animation.
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