Coraline - Movie Review


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There are all sorts of movies that we've seen as kids that in retrospect we realize should never have been classified as "kids movies." After all, which of us were not deeply troubled by Wanka's Oompa Loompa's? Or confused as to whether the kid from the Never Ending Story was really a boy or a girl? Or emotionally wrought over the presence of David Bowie's package in Labyrinth? I know I was. So here we have Coraline, a kid's movie made the way they used to be; colorful, vibrant, and really rather disturbing when you think about it.

Coraline belongs in the horror genre. In fact, I want it to belong there, because to be honest it's better than the majority of films that we have classified as so. The world of the title character is dark and dreary, cold and isolated, and this is the world we're supposed to be rooting for. What the young Coraline discovers however is another world painted in color, one that is illuminated in the midst of a perpetual night. It's a world I'd like to visit. But what the film manages to distinguish is the difference between a vibrant world and a lifeless one, and within that distinction Coraline serves as a film that could never be made, certainly not so effectively, outside of the medium of animation.

I'm not sure if Coraline's supposed to be in middle school, but she's certainly on her way to adolescence with a rather nasty attitude. Her parents too have problems of their own, including ones involving money. Maybe it was a bad time to move into a new house, but it's here that Coraline discovers a small passageway that leads to somewhere that's not quite new, but simply nicer. In Coraline's "other" world, the improved versions of her otherwise neglectful parents are impeccable with the exception of their black button eyes. These eyes have a deadened quality whose only glimmer is that from the comforting glow of the world around them. Just watching them mill about in the kitchen is a surreal moment, and that's how the film manages to be so effective, it's unforgettable.

With a mixture of computer animation and stop-motion animation, Coraline is easily the most distinctive animated film I've seen in the past year, if not longer. Watching it is like watching a magic show; I don't know how it's done, but if I could guess I would say it was pain-staking, time-consuming, and completely worth it. Listen to this soundtrack too. It's wonderful.

I regret I wasn't able to catch this while in theaters, but I surmise I'm not alone.

My only qualms are with that of the films performers. Dakota Fanning has shown her talent otherwise, yet somehow her voice doesn't reflect the same amount of emotion her animated counterpart does. Maybe my volume was just turned too low, but I felt as though the sound effects as well could have been equally tuned to reflect the environments in a similarly vibrant manner. But these are all just asides. Coraline is so different that it begs to be seen.

But should it be seen by kids? I say yes, at least as long as there's an adult there. Kids these days (and I did just say "kids these days") are mostly fed content to make them less stupid, case in point being shows like Dora The Explorer, shows that in fact expect kids to be stupid and therefore cheat them out of quality story-telling. Do kids mind if Dora's "Back Pack" song is largely identical, and just as retarded, as Dora's "I'm a Map" song? No, but I think it's a duty of the parents to point out that level of retardation.

I've sidetracked. Coraline encourages exploration into new worlds, encourages appreciation of art, encourages an appreciation for what you have and teaches valuable life lessons. Sometimes scary stories are the best way to do that. Coraline might be a glorified version of Hanzel and Gretel, but it's still a great scary story, and it certainly deserves a viewing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the love child of Nightmare Before Christmas, Pleasentville, Being John Malcovich, and the Bizzaro World episode of Seinfield.