Saturday, February 14, 2009


Kristen and I saw Coraline tonight...excellent job overall. The pacing seemed a bit off to me, a little slow to get going, a little quick at the finish, but it came through with all the wonderfully screwed-up humor and perspective I've come to expect from Neil Gaiman. I haven't read the book, or any of Gaiman's "children's" books, actually--being a grad student and teaching four courses a semester has annexed most of the time I'd normally dedicate to such things--but I may have to pick it up.

I thought the stop-motion animation style really fits the attitude that pervades Coraline and many of Gaiman's other works. Though Dave McKean and company did some fantastic work on Mirrormask, the visual style never completely clicked for me. Obviously there's a tremendous difference in budget there, but as in The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, and other similar films the aesethetics of stop-motion added tremendously to both the wild imagination and childlike perspective of the movie. If Coraline had been done as either pure CGI or mixed live-action and effects it would have been too much glitz. For example, the opening sequence consisted of nothing more than restuffing a doll, but the visuals were creepy, grotesque, and charming all at once, which is more than could have been asked for from CGI...but exactly what the story needed.

I also have to say that I loved Gaiman's take on the Cheshire Cat, as well as the whole Alice in Wonderland transfomation in general. It was a little painful to sit through what I'd call an extended setup showing how Coraline's parents were ignoring her. (Though, I'd have to say she didn't help the situation since she passed up the one time her mother did reach out to her, so it's not all a bad-parent sort of story.) It didn't seem to fit the rest of the story since those sort of extended sledgehammer-to-the-forehead type backstories are usually a feature of stories targeted at young children while the rest of the movie was decidedly adult in complexity and theme, but maybe I'm just missing how they expect young children to enjoy the second half of the movie because I was so absorbed in interpreting it on a different level.

Anyway, short version is: good flick, go see it.


Anonymous said...

Great review!

We're taking the kids this weekend. It will be a nice change from the pablum we're used to on these family film outings (the dreadful Inkheart as the most recent example, the torturous Bedtime Stories before that. Shudder.).

John said...

Thanks, hope you (and kids) have a good time! It's definitely not a typical saccharine-sweet kids fantasy movie, though there are enough shared elements for younger kids to relate (like the overall story structure, etc.) It's just that Coraline takes those familiar elements and twists them enough that they don't look as cliché and actually become interesting again.

ediFanoB said...

Thank you for review. CORALINE release date in Germany: 28th of May 2009. So my wife and I have to wait.....

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