For fans of "Nightmare Before Christmas" and "the Sandman" comics series, "Coraline" is like a dream come true. Having Henry Selick the director and animator who brought Jack Skellington and "James and the Giant Peach" to life, to adapt the work of Neil Gaiman, the writer who re-invented Morpheus and the Dreaming realm is like a creative genius match made in heaven, and kicks off 2009 for fantasy fans in a big way.
"Coraline" is a dark, smart and sophisticated tale about a girl, who's frustrated with her internet addicted parents that never seem to have the time for her. "Coraline" captures that brushed off feeling, and doesn't pull punches expressing the disappointment that comes with it. Left on her own, "Coraline", with some persistent meddling, finds herself opening a doorway into a mirror world where she faces amazing spectacles and sometimes creepy consequences when her fantasy realm is made all too real.
Coraline's voice talents are well cast and include Dakota Fanning in the lead role with Teri Hatcher as her Mother. Fans of "The Daily Show" will recognize John Hodgman as the voice of the Father. And Ian McShane's unmistakable growl can be identified even with the forced Eastern European accent he added for his character Mr. Bobinsky.
The soundtrack is composed by Bruno Coulais and performed by the Hungarian symphony orchestra adding another layer that sets a dreamy and ominous mood. The score takes a break at one point to let an original song by They Might Be Giants carry viewers on what turns out to be one of the most fun dream wish fantasy fulfillment sequences ever actualized.
And as a nice change of pace for these days, "Coraline" returns to some roots, with Henry Selick and his team of stop motion animators carrying on their tactile traditions of excellence which can be seen in every frame. The physicality comes out and can be appreciated in full detail if you happen to catch "Coraline" in a theater showing the 3D version with the glasses. Parents should take note and heed the PG rating carefully. While "Coraline" delights the imagination, there's a squirmy twisted element that runs throughout the movie which may be a bit too scary for a younger audience.
While not exactly mainstream, and distinctly different than the typical animated fare, "Coraline" may surprise newcomers, but is a shoe-in for anyone who's already a fan of Henry Selick or Neil Gaiman's work. Anyone who has enjoyed their previous creations will be thrilled to see this collaboration. There are even a few in-jokes to catch for those paying attention such as the "Monkeybone" slippers I now want being worn by Coraline's Other Dad. The only downside with "Coraline", is that it sets the creative bar so high, that the rest of the fantasy movies of 2009 may all seem downhill from here.
Hoping the 3D version of "Coraline" gets released for home viewing someday, for Movie Magazine this is Purple.
© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 2/13/09
USA - 2009