Monday, August 03, 2009

Monday Movie Review: Coraline

Coraline (2009) 10/10
The Jones family has moved to a new home, a 150 year old Victorian. Coraline (voice by Dakota Fanning) feels neglected and bored. She finds a door behind the wallpaper that leads to a magical alternative house, where her mother (voice by Teri Hatcher) dotes lovingly, the food is delicious, and even the neighbors are delightful. But all is not what it seems.

Recently I saw someone characterize all of Neil Gaiman's stories as "hapless young person finds a passage into another world in which he/she has a larger destiny." You got your Stardust, your Mirrormask, your Neverwhere all supporting that thesis. And truly, I laughed.More...

Coraline Jones finds a door into another world, but she is not hapless, and she doesn't have a larger destiny. She is angry, and tough, and longing for more, and for a while, she thinks she's found it. But, like Pinocchio's Pleasure Island, the joys of the Other Mother's domain are merely enticements designed to ensnare Coraline, and before long she learns other children have been trapped here as well, their ghosts longing for freedom.

She's a marvelous character, Coraline; annoyed, strong, innocent, and perfectly childlike. She is smart without all that "wise beyond her years" crap. Her life is rooted in reality, her animated stop-motion world is rich in texture. Coraline's bedroom, her garden, her insane neighbors, are all incredibly detailed.

The terrors of Other Mother's world sneak up on you. Everyone on the other side has button eyes, and Other Mother wants Coraline to sew buttons into her own eyes as a condition of staying there. Button eyes are creepy. They are just flat-out disturbing. There's the blankness, the way the perfect roundness defies even the illusion of expression, and let's not forget, they're sewn on. With a needle. So there's that.

I actually had a little trouble sleeping afterwards. These are some seriously disturbing images. Which the film producers apparently fail to understand, since the previews were all for cutesy kid movies. And 9, so apparently all animation is equally cute, no matter the subject.

Oh, yeah, the animation! The beauty of this film is beyond my ability to describe. I've simply never seen anything like it. We were sucked in by a DVD sale at Target: 4 free pairs of 3-D glasses! But after about ten minutes, we couldn't get past the muddy colors, took off the glasses, and switched to 2-D.

So, pretty much a must-see. A rich animation experience, a complex main character, a fully-realized world, and buttons.

(The Other Cross-post)