When Coraline moves to an old house, she feels bored and neglected by her parents. She finds a hidden door with a bricked up passage. During the night, she crosses the passage and finds a parallel world where everybody has buttons instead of eyes, with caring parents and all her dreams coming true. When the Other Mother invites Coraline to stay in her world forever, the girl refuses and finds that the alternate reality where she is trapped is only a trick to lure her.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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.
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