Reviewed by Nomad
Starring the voices of Teri Hatcher, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Saunders, Keith David
Directed by Henry Selick
This is where I usually go into a tirade about the death of free expression and original thought, citing countless remakes of remakes, re-imaginings, Americanized episodes, etc., etc., etc. Today is not that day. Today we are going to reflect on the positive because we have a stop-motion animation masterpiece to talk about, and to add to your reversion to giggling, dorky schoolkids, you can even see it in 3D.
Coraline is the story of a young girl, who, like most girls her age, is willful, argumentative, restless, and never satisfied. She and her parents move to a new town and into a large house already occupied by a strange cast of characters, all very theatrical in their own way. Shooed away by her parents and shadowed by the odd boy that lives down the road, Coraline is driven to find anything of interest under her own roof and discovers a small door. Stepping inside transports Coraline to an alternate universe where everything is the ideal version of her life and she is given her heart's desire at her slightest gesture. Of course, this is where things go south…
Coraline goes from zero to creepy in 2.3 seconds. The story unfolds like a classic fairy tale with our heroine innocently dancing her way through her little world until coming face to face with the fantastic. Soon the fantastic becomes unsettling, segueing into disturbing, then frightening until poor Coraline stands before the true face of horror. This is NOT for little kids prone to nightmares. I’ve never watched a film that pulled off a transition so drastic and yet, so fluid, like a slow rolling storm with winds building and suddenly, lightning crashes so near you can feel the electricity on your skin. This movie is gripping and deep! No small feat for any film, much less an animated one.
The amazing thing here (and a point you will continually find you’ll have to remind yourself) is that this is a stop-motion feature! I’m looking at puppets on little stages with little props and so on. MINDBLOWINGLY ENTERTAINING! This is the kind of movie you want to own as you watch it, so you can look closely into scenes and discover things you didn’t catch the 2nd and 3rd viewings. The level of skill it takes to pull something like this off, with only little nuances added via CGI, is difficult to calculate. This is living, breathing art. Nothing less.
I recall seeing Bolt and cringing every time the lead character got too cutesy. Since Coraline never tries to cater to the cartoon watching set, it is not saddled with such trappings. Dakota Fanning brings some fantastic depth to Coraline, switching from biting sarcasm to innocent trepidation flawlessly. Need more star power? How about Keith David as a sinister cat and Ian McShane as the over-the-top, acrobatic Mr. Bobinsky? You’ll also be wowed by Teri Hatcher, who conveys 15 kinds of mothering from hectic and apologetic to sedate and “Stepford Wife” cheery and finally grave and terrible with thoughts too awful to picture.
Coraline is a spectacle you’ll enjoy from start to finish. The insanity of it all is, every bit of it is 100% believable! Only when the film ends do you say to yourself "Oh wait ... that was about ghosts and a creepy demony lady chasing a little girl!" The immersion is that complete. I’ll also add that this is an excellent bit of 3D as well. There are times I get headaches in these films and wish to ditch the glasses all together, or else give up and leave. Coraline is so completely perfect you won’t even realize how much time has gone by. This weekend give yourself a treat. Catch a late show away from the rotten little children and enjoy a movie that will remind you of everything you used to love about film in the first place.
5 out of 5
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