Director: Henry Selick
Producers: Claire Jennings,
Writer: Henry Selick
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher
Runtime: 101 minutes
It’s bound to happen to anyone. You’re watching a movie in the theater and you fall asleep. I’m sorry to say “Coraline” was sleep-inducing to me. It’s not a bad film by any means. It’s visually beautiful and its attention to detail is flawless. The story is just bland and hackneyed, which was surprising given the film’s director and source material.
Based on Neil Gaiman’s story of the same name, “Coraline” tells the story of the titular girl (Fanning); she is restless and eternally searching for something more. She lives in a large, endlessly searchable house with her mother (Hatcher) and father (John Hodgman). Coraline’s world is turned inside-out when she finds a mysterious doorway to another world. In this world Coraline finds other, better versions of her family and friends. But then she discovers the truth and sees the buttons sewed over their eyes. This macabre fashion statement is a little too much for Coraline; she must use her wits and resourcefulness to escape the grasp of the “others” and return home.
Anyone who has seen “Labyrinth,” “The Wizard of Oz” or any other fantasy-type film knows exactly what they’re getting into. Girl hates home. Girl finds an eerily similar yet altogether different world. New world freaks girl out. Girl returns home with a newfound respect and appreciation for her family. This has all been done before and it’s been done better.
Those going into “Coraline” expecting a tone as dark as “The Nightmare Before Christmas” or “Corpse Bride” will walk away slightly disappointed. Anyone who has seen the trailer for “Coraline” has already been introduced to the darkest aspect of the film
Director Henry Selick, most famous for helming “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” as well as “James and the Giant Peach,” is very skilled and adept at Claymation. With two-dimensional animation circling the cinematic drain and 3D animation only safe in the hands of Pixar, it’s a medium that, due to the painstaking efforts needed, is not seen often enough in feature-length films. However, the style is used to great effect here. The details of the set and characters are amazing. Viewers may feel themselves marveling not at the story, but at the fact that everything on screen is made and shaped from clay. Because of my experience with other claymation films, a part of me thinks “Coraline” may have worked better as a musical, though.
The voice work is also average. I don’t recall a single scene where I was particularly impressed by the voice acting. Fanning, who is quickly growing up to be a wonderful actress, was surprisingly sub-par in the film. Perhaps this isn’t her fault as much as it’s the script’s. Hatcher, mediocre in everything she’s done, is just as bland here.
I’ve learned that when it comes to watching a film in 3D, the closer one sits to the screen the more intense the 3D action will be. After the 3D fiasco that was “My Bloody Valentine,” I went into “Coraline” not expecting much, and that’s exactly what I got in return. Walking out of the theater, I got the feeling that filming this movie in 3D was merely an afterthought, much like “My Bloody Valentine” was. I’m still waiting for a film that uses 3D to actually tell the story, not just enhance it visually.
While it looks beautiful and is aesthetically pleasing, the story is just a rehash of themes we’ve all seen before, and though 3D does enhance it a bit, it never rises above the level of being just a gimmick. Those really looking forward to seeing this movie wouldn’t be missing out on much by just waiting for it to hit DVD. Those suffering from insomnia may want to check “Coraline” out, though, since it works well as a sleep aid.