Beautiful Coraline a Creepy Angelic Treat
Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) is unhappy. Her parents have moved the family to the middle of nowhere, taking up residence in a gigantic pink apartment house next to an unkept garden adjacent to the creepiest looking woods anyone has ever seen. They’re so absorbed in writing their new book they’ve been unable to spend a single, fun-filled second with Coraline, the sullen child wishing she could be whisked away and live with parents who appreciate the many gifts she has to offer them.
As the saying says, be careful what you wish for, because when Coraline finds a mysterious door leading to a magical parallel world, she quickly discovers that once the candy-colored glow of having your heart’s desire is realized, what’s left isn’t exactly wonderful. Instead, she’s trapped face-to-face with the ghosts of stolen children past, a button-eyed “Other Mother” (Teri Hatcher) malevolently attempting to convince this new little girl to let the web-spinning woman literally love the life right out of her.
Coraline is spectacular. Visually, not necessarily as a whole motion picture (although it is quite good), its eye-popping array of multicolor treats so phantasmagoric it is arguably the most audaciously spellbinding ocular treat to hit theaters since director Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe. Henry Selick, the visionary responsible for making Jack Skellington fly in The Nightmare Before Christmas and Miss Spider dance upon her web in James and the Giant Peach, has outdone himself, this 3-D stop-motion fable a delectable sensation audiences of all ages are sure to delight in.
Based on the book by author Neil Gaiman (whose works also were the inspiration for the criminally underrated Stardust), there is a delightful whimsy to all of this I found impossible to resist. This is one of those movies that makes me believe anything is possible, and from giant circus tents filled to the brim with dancing mice or Technicolor gardens springing to life with animalistic gaiety, so much happens within each scene that individual frames are all magnificent works of art ready for display in a museum.
Coraline does tend to drag, some scenes smashing together like a series of vignettes culled from a series of animated shorts and then haphazardly assembled into one full-length feature. This can cause a sensation of choppiness. Coraline moves back and forth between the worlds so many times it can feel frustratingly indulgent, almost as if Selick fell so in love with the astonishing images he and his amazing team created that he was unable to trim even an extra second once he got inside the editing room.
Thankfully, the delicious final act is so strong, so sinister, so exciting and, most of all, so fun, I was able to put aside any reservations I might have had without any problem whatsoever. Other Mother is an instantly classic villainess. Her and Coraline’s battle of wills is one for the ages, and I happily took a great deal of delight watching the two struggle for victory.
It helps considerably that composer and They Might Be Giants band member Bruno Coulais’ score is an ethereal symphony that mirrors the operatic events splendidly. The music provides a haunting aria of magic and imagination, and it fits this adventure so well, it becomes impossible to imagine watching the film without it.
I can’t get over how splendiferous this all looked projected upon that massive big screen. If there has ever been a case of visual style winning out over substance then this is that textbook example. Selick spins a web of such ridiculous beauty I can state there were multiple moments where I was left ecstatically breathless. Coraline is a treasure, and if families don’t take the time to discover it, they’ll be missing out on a creepy angelic sensation worth cheering.
– Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle
Film Rating: 3 (out of 4)