Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Movie Review- Coraline

I love movies. I love animated movies. I love dark fantasy movies. I love movies that involve a child lead- especially when its a girl. I love Coraline. Movies like Coraline remind why I love movies so much and why I spend my nights writing about them. It's no secret that in America, an animated movie automatically means its a children's film. I grew up watching My Neighbor Totoro and The Nightmare Before Christmas probably everyday. The brilliant Hayao Miyazaki, I believe, is one of the greatest film makers EVER. He understands how to make a animated film for people of all ages and how utilize that medium to create something truly breathtaking. My Neighbor Totoro was cute for me as a child and very moving to me as an adult. The Nightmare Before Christmas was the perfect dose of scary for me as a child; a nice change from the other stuff I was watching at the time. In the light of making a scary movie for children, Disney shook their finger and gave a big "No, No" to them. The thought of having a scary Disney movie for children was just impossible in their heads. The Nightmare Before Christmas was then released under their 'adult' film distributor brand Touchstone. Well as most of you probably know now, The Nightmare Before Christmas is kind of a big deal. It is re-released every year in theaters around Halloween and has a HUGE cult following. Disney now smothers their Disney brand all over their Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise. People assume incorrectly when it comes to children watching a scary film. Children do love a good thrill.

Coraline was huge risk for movie studios. Stop-motioned seemed to be a dead form of animation especially with all animation going to CG. No parents wanted to take their kids to a scary movie, right? And no adult wants to see an animated film cause those are for kids, right? Oh yeah, and who likes it when it's a little girl lead with no love story? Still, the movie was distributed by Focus Features and they underwent a AMAZING marketing campaign. What I loved about their marketing campaign was that they sold it for what it was. They didn't flower it up to look like a fun movie for little girls and a great family film. They made it clear is was quirky, different, and dark. Yes, the previews weirded some people out, but it intrigued others. In the end, the people who would have loved the movie saw it and many children saw it. Judging from the reactions of people in the audience, it seemed like the adults were the scared ones while the children were completely pulled in and emerged in the film.

So, about the film itself. Coraline is a stop-motion (moving little dollies painfully slowing while taking pictures) animated film directed by Henery Selick based on the book by Neil Gaiman. Well Neil Gaiman (Stardust, Neverwhere) is one of my favorite authors EVER and Henry Selick's previous credits include The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach...need I say more? Basically, I had to see this film. So Coraline is about a 11-year old girl named, well, Coraline who moves into a old house. The house is divided into three residences. Coraline lives with her parents who are constantly working and ignore her the majority of the time. Her neighbors are Miss Spink and Forcible, a pair of eccentric retired actresses, and Mr. Bobinsky, a Russian circus mice trainer. Coraline's world is basically full of dullness with no one paying attention to her.

One night, she finds a small door leading to a strange tunnel. Coraline steps through the door and finds a alternative reality where everything looks the same and the people are the same, yet its the completely different at the same time. The house is more colorful, the food is tastier, the parents are loving, and the neighbors are fun. Oh and everyone has buttons for eyes. What stands out most in this other world is the other mother. She's gorgeous, kind, cooks up amazing meals for Coraline, and showers her with love. This new world seems to good to be true. It doesn't take Coraline long to realize that fact. After three visits to the other world, the other mother wants to sew buttons into Coraline's eyes. Coraline does the smart thing and dips out of that place. Problems arise however when Coraline meets the ghosts of three children who's souls have been eaten by the the 'other' mother and soon afterwards her real parents have been kidnapped by the other mother as well. Coraline must gather all her courage and go back to the other world and face the other mother in order to rescue her parents and set free the souls of the ghost children.

This movie has been referred to as a dark Alice in Wonderland (the animated Disney version). Seems like anything that involves a kid finding themselves in a fantasy world is a Alice in Wonderland. I personally thought is was more like Spirited Away and Pan's Labyrinth. Nothing is fluffed up and thrown in there with no purpose. All the eccentric fantasy elements had a reason to be there. There were many elements in Coraline's other world that weren't in the book and I loved it all! The other father being a giant pumpkin that came from the garden- it was all brilliant! Also unlike Alice in Wonderland, Coraline isn't just brainlessly wandering around. She's out to save her parents and the ghost children, like in Spirited Away where Chihiro is trying to save her parents or in Pan's Labyrinth where Ofelia tries to save her mother and brother. Coraline doesn't shy away from taking risks. The film was scary and very dark. The other mother is grotesquely horrifying towards the end and when it seems like everything is finally okay, there is yet another twist at the end.

The animation is absolutely gorgeous! I believe this is the longest, most extensive stop-motion film that has ever been made and the results were beautiful. The score was also fantastic! As much as I loved Danny Elfman's score to The Nightmare Before Christmas, I was so glad Mr. Selick didn't use him for Coraline. Mr. Elfman's music has become so comercialized and it's never anything new. French composer Bruno Coulais did a brilliant job adding a creepy yet beautiful score to Coraline and his gibberish singing children's choir for some of the tracks was just genius. This movie had everything I love. Beautiful animation, trippy dark fantasy, horrifying antagonist, and a strong minded little girl lead. Mr. Selick, you have now made two of my favorite movies of all time.

Recommended- Final Score 10/10

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