Monday, February 9, 2009

CORALINE's stunning imagery evokes both beauty and dread...

By: JaysQ

As I was browsing through the resume of the undisputed stop-motion king, Henry Selik, I found a rather interesting credit to his name. Nearly 30 years ago he was an alien designer (sweet job title!) for the 1980’s family/horror WATCHER IN THE WOODS. Rather obscure I know, but it got me thinking in how many ways CORALINE reminds me of that now virtually non-existent genre. Those films were definitely frightening to many kids that watched them. But it was an innocent kind of fear that inspired the imagination rather than torment it. In that vain, Selik’s recent addition to an ever growing list of animated classics, delivers a perfect blend of tugs on the ol’ heartstring and genuinely creepy moments. Add in top notch visuals and a great voice cast and you better believe your in for a treat.

We start the story meeting Coraline Jones (voice of Dakota Fanning) and her parents as they are moving into a new house. As most kids would be, she is a little upset about having to part ways with her friends (or “best trolls” as she hilariously puts it) and is quite frankly, being a bit of a nuisance. Her parents aren’t paying her much mind either as they endlessly labor on a gardening catalog and she inevitably finds herself bored and lonely. Days go on as she tries to fritter away the doldrums spending time with the peculiar tenants of her new building (DawnFrench/Jennifer Saunders/Ian McShane respectively) or the abrasive young neighbor Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr.). All this changes when CORALINE awakens one night and finds a passageway in her new home that was previously sealed off. Through this mysterious opening she stumbles into another world, that looks like her own, but is very different indeed. In this world everything feels perfect and all her troubles disappear. But it doesn’t take long before she figures out that something is not quite right and that there’s a price tag on this happiness.

I really can’t say enough good things about this film. It is downright gorgeous to look at. Often in a dark and deranged fashion. Definite eye candy from start to finish. Selik really showcases the magical qualities of stop-motion and the fact it’s shot in 3D only enhances the visual smorgasbord. I especially enjoyed how he displayed so beautifully the stark contrasts of the real world and the “other world”. Our world looks bleak and gloomy while the other world looks vibrant and full of life, in synch with the emotions CORALINE feels when in both places. One of my favorite scenes of the movie comes in the form a lush living garden that CORALINE’s “other” father creates in her honor, but there is plenty to marvel at throughout.

All of the voice acting is solid, however, Ms. Fanning really nails the spunky attitude of the protagonist and I loved John Hodgman/Teri hatcher as the preoccupied but ultimately loving parents. My favorite character though has to be the mangy enigmatic black cat (voiced by the sultry Keith David) who can also leisurely stroll between the two worlds. The team up between these two in the final act makes for some of the most thrilling moments of the picture.

CORALINE is a gift from the treasure trove of creativity that is Henry Selik’s noggin and is easily a must see in the theater. It truely shows a level of artistry in film the likes of which I am never satiated. Equal parts funny, sincere and disturbing, this is far and away the best feature of 2009 to date and will be tough competition for even the most promising upcoming releases through to december. It is not to be missed!


  1. Awesome job! I was expecting to find a bunch of holes that i could just reach into and rip wide open but i got to say this is a TIGHT review. I look forward to reading more.

    I would just like to add a couple a couple of thoughts. I found this movie to remind me of Alice in Wonderland for a couple reasons. Coraline first trip into the other world has her following a mouse that strangely hops like a bunny through a small door. Almost like following a rabbit down a hole into a strange world. Second is the cat that she meets at different points in the movie always ready to dole out some wisdom, curiously like A Chesire cat. I don't feel Coraline has stolen from Alice in Wonderland, maybe just influenced a little.

    To Recap
    This review----3 out of 5
    Coraline-------4 out of 5

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  3. There are alot of intriguing parallels to Alice in Wonderland in this movie. Selik definately seems to be influenced by the story which I can only take to be a good thing.

  4. review lion king, or better yet, the whole disney vault. skipping a daily post is a no no. i want my chance to rip something else up