Movie Notes: Coraline
= 4 stars
Starring Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman
Directed by Henry Selick
Bored with her somber, workaholic parents, Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) discovers a secret door in her new home. On the other side is an alternate, cozier version of reality, where everyone has buttons for eyes.
- Features the exemplar stop motion animation technique used in A Nightmare Before Christmas, James And The Giant Peach, and Corpse Bride. As expected, the sets are exquisite (the story seems to take place in Ashland, Oregon, and captures the overcast, dank, Pacific Northwest gloom), and the character designs imaginatively exaggerated to the point of caricature: loved the slightly askew noses, droopy slouch of Father, and the batty theatrical dustiness of Missus Spink and Forcible. Mother has some kind of perpetual turtle neck that looks like a neck brace, surely a visual queue to her constricted nature.
- The 3D aspect, while initially just a novelty, soon serves the story: the alternate world has more extreme 3D which adds both wonders and disorienting bewilderment.
- The core family is entertainingly dysfuctional – Mother and Father look overworked and gloomy, staring into computer screens (probably doubtful their writing gigs will get them through the recession). Neither has much time for their daughter, who likely as a defensive mechanism has become rather bratty and sulky. But ultimately, we get a decent moral: sulky, boring parents still beat a psychotic witch who wants to poke your eyes out.
- Oh, there’s a black cat, who takes Coraline on a short jaunt that reminded me of THX 1138. No, not kidding.
- The film’s first two-thirds had me anticipating a neat explanation for all the creepy goings-on, which doesn’t ever arrive. Ultimately, all the awesome hand-made eye candy can’t make up for a “meh” plot.
While I generally feel the whole Alice In Wonderland homage has been done to death (Labyrinth, MirrorMask, Pan’s Labyrinth), there was enough stuff going on in Coraline to keep me alternately mesmerized and amused. It’s a solid, better-than-average entry in that whole “lost-girl” genre. Worth seeing in the theater if you can.
Rotten Tomatoes: Coraline 88%