Sunday, March 29, 2009


From the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Henry Selick, comes Coraline, the story of a young girl who discovers an "other world" where life is always happy...or so she thinks. One part Alice in Wonderland, one part--naturally--The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline is a fantastic film employing the well known but seldom used stop-motion animation.

Based on the book by Neil Gaiman (Beowulf, Stardust), Coraline is about a girl, Coraline Jones (played spot-on by Dakota Fanning), who is unhappy about the way her life is playing out. Her parents, both writers, seem to have no time for her, and thus Coraline is left to her own devices in her new home. Stalked by a creepy Quasimodo type named Wybie and his mangy, feral cat, Coraline spends her time exploring her new place of residence. It is here that she finds a small doorway that leads to an "other world". Just like her own universe, the other world has dopplegangers of those she knows. Everything seems wonderful there, as long as you can look past (no pun intended) the whole having buttons for eyes thing. Coraline soon realizes everything isn't quite so happy on the other side of the doorway, and it's up to her to set things right and save herself and those around her.

This is a film based on a children's book, but I was surprised at some of imagery included. Things do seem very magical, but at the same time, I was always dealing with this very strong sense of being disturbed. Everything was too perfect. Inanimate objects come to life and are at first playful, but soon become obstructions in Coraline's path to freedom. Her "other mother" is loving in the beginning, but it soon becomes clear that she is something more wicked. A wolf--or maybe spider--in sheep's clothing, the "other mother" wants to fit Coraline with a brand new set of shiny black button-eyes and keep her there--forever. I have to say, this film may require another viewing in theaters. Not only is it a spectacle that I fully endorse for theatrical viewing, but it was almost a movie that instigated sensory overload. I just got out of it and yet there was so much to look at that I may have missed something. I KNOW what I saw and I know the things I saw gave me a strong sense of unease, but I can't describe it here. Suffice it to say, you must go see this film.

Don't get me wrong, you're probably not going to have nightmares (although some of the younguns might), but like I said, it just evokes this FEELING; something you can't quite put your finger on. Seeing the "other mother" in her true form, seeing ghosts of the children that came before Coraline, seeing people who are so normal become button-eyed zombies, the imagery is like a nightmare come to life. Nothing quite so strong as to make you wake up screaming, but the kind of "what the fuck" dream that will make you snap awake and question your sanity.

Also, for a PG movie, wow was there some seeming inappropriate imagery when it came to women in the film. One of the characters, the first time I saw her, I was nearly dumbstruck at the size of her rack. It's freakin' clay for cryin' out loud! In a kids movie! No, seriously, we're talking FFF size here. BEACHBALLS. And then they show her later, on a stage, in an opera, wearing nothing from the waist up but PASTIES! And yes, there was even physics applied to 'em; she walks, they bounce. Just seemed to me to be a bit much for a PG movie made for children.

Still, this 22 year old thinks this may be in his top 10 films of all-time. Granted, I'm coming down from that first-time high that comes from experiencing something that astounded, but that's why I said "may be". I wanna watch it again before I give a solid vote of "yay" or "nay".

Regardless, this film cannot be overlooked. It is, technically, a feat of wonders. The animation is incredible. And I have to give it to Dakota, she really holds up her end of the film. Actually, the acting all around was top notch. A little over-the-top at times, but it was what was called for. The 3D, although I didn't see it in a theater capable of such, was NOT over-the-top. It wasn't a barrage of things flying of the screen. Instead, the 3D was used to make the world come to life, to really give it a sense of DEPTH.

I know, I know! I'm ranting and raving and rambling on (as usual). Cut me a little slack though, it's nearly midnight and I just wanted to hammer this thing out. I'm sure it's convoluted but I'm gonna give you readers out there the benefit of the doubt; you'll be able to sift through the muck and find the review--a shining one--I have planted within.

To summarize, I highly, HIGHLY recommend this movie. I know Rapids didn't get it, but Bemidji did and, for that, I'm thankful. This is a film I'm so so glad to have experienced in the theaters, on the big screen. I may be praising this thing to high heaven, and that might get some of your hopes high--too high. So think of it this way: if you like the imagery of films like The Nightmare Before Christmas or James and the Giant Peach (not to mention that weird creepiness), and if you're a fan of fantasy along the lines of Alice in Wonderland, I'd bet dollars to donuts (no idea what that actually means) that you'd find enjoyment here.

And yes, this will be added to my collection upon it's release. On Blu-Ray, no less.

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