Friday, December 4, 2015

Coraline Film Review



Pretty Stop Motion

Coraline is stop motion movie eye candy.  Unfortunately it’s story doesn’t match the high standards set by Coraline’s graphic designers.  The chief problem is there simply isn’t enough story in Neil Gaiman’s novella to fully support a full length feature film.

Director Henry Selick’s attempts to add filler serves as nothing more, and as a result the story starts to lose its sentimentality. The story is by no means bad, but it could have been better. More than anything, Coraline gets a high score because of the way it looks.

Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning), her mother (Teri Hatcher), and father (John Hodgman) move into the Pink Palace apartments.  After getting a strange button eyed doll of herself from a boy named Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr.) Coraline discovers a door in her home that leads her to a home exactly like the one she lives, but where she gets everything she wants.

As Coraline becomes enamored with the “other home” she finds that her mother is making it increasingly difficult for her to leave.  Coraline will have to fight to return to her ordinary life.

Coraline is an excellent family movie.  A courageous young girl must find a way to accept life the way it is, and she must battle her way through an elaborate, ever-changing fantasy world.  Important life lessons learned, and a classic good vs. evil fantasy story will keep kids watching.  For parents who care more about the aesthetics of film, they will find a visual masterpiece with some rich themes to accompany it.

The ordinary vs. extraordinary battle that occurs throughout this film has been one of my favorite thematic arguments ever since I read Crime and Punishment.  Watching this being translated to a kids movie was really refreshing and it’s something I greatly admired Coraline for tackling.

The characters in Coraline are all puppets and the design of each of these puppets is absolutely amazing.  The facial expressions and the body movements that are achieved really make you appreciate the hard work that went into making this movie.

The color design switches between beautiful and dreary.  A bleak color palette is used for Coraline while she’s in the real world, while a much more vibrant color palette is used when she heads to the “other home.”  The contrast this creates really makes the other world appealing, and had me eagerly awaiting to see Coraline return.  The standout scenes for me visually were the first time Coraline sees the garden her other father is growing, and Coraline’s final battle with “other mother.”  There really isn’t any other film that looks like this movie, other than A Nightmare Before Christmas – and even then these movies, especially on the color spectrum, are very different.

The voice actors handle their roles well.  Dakota Fanning does an excellent job carrying the story as Coraline. Teri Hatcher has double duty as Coraline’s apathetic real mom and her evil other mom, the latter being a role she really excels in. Keith David’s bass heavy voice works surprisingly well as he portrays a talking black cat.

The novella this is based off of is under 200 pages and you can tell the director is desperate for extra material.  There are extra trips to the other world that don’t really need to be there, and extra characters – cough Wybie cough – that don’t add anything to the story.  It’s a disappointing to see a movie fall short when it has excellent source material and such great effort being put forth visually.

If you’re a fan of cinematography, puppets, or stop-motion films, Coraline comes highly recommended – despite some of its shortcomings.  The same goes if you’re looking for a quality family film.

Score: 8.7

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