Thursday, February 12, 2009
Director: Henry Selick
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman, Robert Bailey Jr., Keith David
Distributor: Focus Features
MPAA: Rated PG
Coraline was easily one of my most anticipated films of 2009. Ever since I first heard about the film early last year, I was dieing to see it. I mean the film was being directed by Henry Selick, who is simply a god when it comes to stop-motion animation. He directed the ever so popular cult hit "The Nightmare Before Christmas" which Tim Burton took credit for (honestly, what comes to mind when you mention The Nightmare Before Christmas? obviously Tim Burton right?). Sure Monkeybone wasn't as great as people were expecting it to be, but every director has a mistake here and their. Even if I haven't read the book, I was still excited for this release.
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.
The film is based on the novel "Coraline" by British author Neil Gaiman. I never got the chance to read the novel, but I did read some reviews online that stated that the film stayed pretty faithful to the novel in terms of its story, but changed or took out some sections. Coraline is a breath of fresh air and one that's worth experiencing especially in 3D. The story is nicely developed by director Henry Selick. I'm so happy that Selick chose to go stop-motion instead of live action because everything about this film just screams stop-motion. I'm sure they could have gone live action with real actors and special effects, but it wouldn't be as special as going with stop-motion is. The film had me intrigued the whole time and kept me on the edge of my seat. Sure the story did start off alittle slow and I can see some people being bored with this film due to its nature of story telling, but that's just the way the film was crafted. This is mostly a film that you will love or at the least enjoy. Its very hard for anyone to hate on this film because it simply has too much going for it. I like to think of it as a darker version of Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland. The two of them are very similar in terms of story and surrealism. Both are fantastic and require some imagination to enjoy it. I know Pixar dominates the animation department with their wonderful films, but Coraline is sure to bring something new and exciting to the audience. Its easily the best film and animated film of the year...so far.
The lovely young Dakota Fanning voices the main character of the film, Coraline Jones. She does a great job with the character and you can tell her voice was perfect for this part. She delivers her lines with good insight and strong voice work. Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatcher, voices The Mother and Other Mother. She also makes for a good voice talent and one that played her part very good. I enjoyed her as Coraline's mother and she definitely made the film more creepy. John Hodgman plays as The Father and Other Father. I have never seen or heard of Hodgman, but I think he did a splendid job here. His voice work isn't used as much as say Coraline or the Mother, but its still good. I think he nailed the father type role in this film and his voice sure shows it. Robert Bailey Jr. plays as Coraline's only friend in the movie, Wybie Lovat. Now at first, I had no idea that Wybie was being voiced by an African American actor because his voice just didn't show it. So I think Bailey Jr. did a good job with his voice and had me believed he was this character named Wybie. We also have the legendary voice work master Keith David, voicing the Cat. He does a good job with his character and honestly, it felt like a walk in the park for David, who has done many voice work in the past.
Coraline is simply a visual delight. The film is made using stop-motion animation which is the same process The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride went under. The film was also made using 3D technology and was first implemented from day one of production. Not only does this make the film much more surreal, but it also creates one of the best 3D looking films I have yet seen. Everything just seems to come alive in 3D and especially in this movie. Sure the film doesn't have too many 3D pop ins, but that doesn't matter. I wouldn't enjoy a 3D movie if the film looked like it was trying to make the 3D aspects of the film much more important than the story. With that aside, I didn't notice any film grain through out the movie. Colors were somewhat muted, but was done intentionally to make the film more creepy. Their are a few scene in the film that show great vibrancy such as some of the later scenes. These scenes all look very beautiful and very colorful. Black levels were also great and held up nicely in darker scenes. Detail was also strong, but this was expected with an animated movie.
The soundtrack in the film is really something I fell in love with. The films original music was done by Bruno Coulais and They Might Be Giants. Now, I personally haven't heard of both these talented composers, but they sure did a bang up job with the films music. The film doesn't have too many different orchestral work and is mostly limited to one music through out the film, but its one hell of a score. It easily melts with the films story and creepy atmosphere. I'm really surprised Danny Elfman didn't composer the music for this film considering it looks like its right up his alley. I guess its a good thing because as talented as Elfman is, I don't think I would change the music in this film to one of his even though his might sound awesome. Coraline also features a good amount of bass. Its not the heavy bass usage that we have come to expect from most action movies, but it definitely is good enough for an animated film like this especially one that's stop-motion. Dynamics are all around and more than clear enough. I never for a second felt that the audio was off or felt alittle flat.
Coraline is easily one of the years best film and easily one of the best animated movies I have seen. The story is engrossing and very entertaining. Its got interesting characters that are very fun to watch and its simply fresh. I'm so glad that we have another movie to add to the list of non-Pixar movies that actually manage to become an animated hit. The visual look of the movie is amazing and just goes to show you that stop-motion animation isn't going anywhere. The film is even more thrilling and beautiful in 3D because it just makes the film much more surreal. The soundtrack is easily one of my favorites of the year. It doesn't contain too many different music, but the films score is so lovely and enticing that I just don't care. I will easily recommend this film to those animated lovers and to those looking for a good non-action movie. Its not something Id show the kids simply because it might be alittle too creepy for them, but its still something you should definitely see and in 3D.