Selick’s film can be emotional and even scary, and it has the potential to frighten even the most impressionable people, let alone their children. However, I like to consider it a feel-good film for working parents. There’s also a trustworthy talking cat (voiced by Keith David) to make sure everything works smoothly.
Christmas movie review Coraline
The film mirrors traditional fantasy stories by the Brothers Grimm, Lewis Carroll, and L. Frank Baum by tapping into basic desires and fears. The tunnel resembles the rabbit hole Alice fell down, and the bizarre mirror-like way in which the “other” world reflects reality reminds us of the doubling of performers in the film adaptation of Oz. “Coraline” isn’t without flaws. I could have done without the downstairs neighbours, two old showgirls, or the above neighbours, an acrobatic Russian barker (a little carny goes a long way). However, the playfulness is always balanced out by comic mischief and Hatcher’s genuinely terrifying Other Mother. The model work is remarkable for its bizarre, jury-rigged creativity. A shower spouts rusty water, which appears to be made of plastic. And if you look closely enough at the blooms in Other Father’s garden, you’ll notice they’re made of popcorn. You can’t taste it yet, but in its 3-D form, you can.
With the beautifully designed, expertly crafted “Coraline,” Selick, who established the bar for stop-motion capture filmmaking with “The Nightmare Before Christmas” 16 years ago, raises the bar dramatically. Coraline is an 11-year-old girl whose family relocates to a large home in Oregon. Coraline isn’t especially fond of the house, and she isn’t fond of her family at times as well. She starts exploring out of boredom and discovers a trapdoor that leads her to a strange realm where she meets a family that looks a lot like her own, only better, or so she thinks. “Coraline,” based on a Neil Gaiman novel, is a dark fantasy…a filthy and serene fairy tale. Coraline (Dakota Fanning) is intrigued by this wonderful world, in which mundane things like school and job have been replaced by fantastical things like parents who appear to laugh and care about her, and she is surrounded by glittering and pleasant things like circuses and pianos, flowers and cakes. This fascinating, mystical world is masterfully brought to life, and Selick gives the tale as much attention as the visual presentation. Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman, Coraline’s real-life parents, generally ignore her.
Coraline is rapidly tempted by this alluring new environment in which her presence is cherished. Of course, as we frequently learn in dark fairy tales, there is always a price to be paid for living one’s fantasy, and Coraline quickly discovers the darker side of her fantasy world and the pseudo-mother with the black button eyes who wishes to possess her entirely. After creating such wonderful animated pictures as “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “James and the Giant Peach,” Selick has never received the attention he deserves as a director. To be honest, I’ve been guilty of considering “The Nightmare Before Christmas” to be a Tim Burton film when Burton simply produced it. Some may criticise the picture for its Coenesque narrative, which has a storyline that doesn’t always link the audience to the characters. Indeed, connecting to Selick’s universe is far simpler than connecting to Coraline, her family, or the myriad eccentrics who surround them. However, much like a Coen Brothers or, for that matter, a Tim Burton film, Selick recognises that if we become too attached to any one character, the tale begins to disintegrate.
If we are permitted to focus our energies, thoughts, and emotions on any one component of the world, we will not be able to fully absorb it. Instead, we must allow ourselves to totally immerse ourselves in both dream and reality…only then will we be able to truly enjoy the story as it unfolds. In other words, “Coraline” is a picture that is inventive, bold, and intelligent, free of Hollywood gimmicks and sentimental notions. The entire vocal group is fantastic, but Dakota Fanning’s portrayal of the young kid is particularly impressive. Ian McShane, who shares the big ole’ mansion with Hatcher and Hodgman, is fantastic as the owner of a mouse circus. Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders are also excellent as retired vaudevillians who share the house, and Keith David shines as a sage cat. The film’s Elfmanesque score by Bruno Coulais is a wonderful match for the action, and even They Might Be Giants contribute to the soundtrack. While you will enjoy “Coraline” in 2D, it was designed in 3D and is best experienced in that format. However, it should be emphasised that 3-D greatly intensifies the film’s visual effects, and it is quite possible that some aspects of the Other Mother’s World will be distressing to small children. In the cinematic wasteland of Hollywood’s winter releases, finding a gem like “Coraline” is unusual. It’s hard to imagine a better animated film being made this year, and all one can hope for is that “Coraline” will be remembered come awards season. “Coraline” is easily the best film of early 2009, with magnificent and bizarre imagery and phrases that will linger in your mind long after you’ve left the theatre.
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