Monday, 29 June 2009

Movie Review - Coraline (3D)

I'd been looking forward to seeing Coraline, though a bit miffed that we had to wait months for it to come to cinemas in the UK. Still, arrive in Britain it did, and we duly went to see it. We watched it in 3D because... well, because it was showing in 3D.

Based on a book by Neil Gaiman (adapted by Henry Selick), Coraline is based on the experiences of a young girl by that name (though she's forever being called Caroline), who has moved with her parents to an old house. Her parents make a living writing about gardening - though they don't like to actually plant anything themselves and Coraline's mother absolutely detests mud - and they have little (or no) time for Coraline. The neighbours are... an eccentric bunch, from the odd boy who talks too much (at least Coraline thinks he does); the ancient showgirls who keep their dead pets - stuff, on the wall; an acrobat who's training an army of mice to perform in a circus.

Even odder, though, are the simulacrums that Coraline finds upon discovering a portal between her world and another one, which seems similar but far better than the real world. Her parents are fun and interested in her, her mother is a great cook, the neighbours all love her and put on fantastic shows for her and Wybie, the boy she thinks talks too much, can't talk at all in this world. Only one thing truly troubles Coraline about this world... the inhabitants all have buttons for eyes, and if she wants to stay there, she's expected to replace her own eyes with buttons. With friends and enemies difficult to discern, Coraline's only true ally may be the only other creature who seems to be able to travel between the two worlds - but can you really trust a talking cat?

The puppetry(stop-motion) in Coraline is superb, with expressive faces, nicely animated movements and some vividly detailed backgrounds. If you've seen The Corpse Bride, this is a very similar style. In fact the plot has several similarities as well, but of the two I infinitely preferred Corpse Bride. Somehow in Coraline I never particularly cared about the characters - Coraline was a bit of a brat, albeit you could understand why considering what her parents were like, and Whybie was a sympathetic character... but with all the weird and wonderful goings on in this movie, I always somehow felt detached from it. There were some instances of humour but really it was more focused on trying to create a world of wonder and mystery, and to me that didn't quite come off.

With voice talent including Dakota Fanning as Corlaline, Teri Hatcher as her mother, Keith David as the cat, and British comediennes Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, among others, the voice acting is top notch. Director Henry Selick adapted Neil Gaiman's book for the screen, and I feel that perhaps it was here that the film lacks something - not enough wit in the dialogue, not enough characterisation to make us care about what's going on. Of course that's just my impression - an average rating of 8.0/10 on IMDB is a pretty impressive achievement and shows that many loved it. Most folks here on Epinions seem to have liked it more than I did as well. It's certainly not that I actually disliked Coraline, I just never truly felt that it got going.

I think perhaps part of the trouble was that I was expecting it to be something like The Corpse Bride, which I really loved, and in comparison I found it paled significantly. As far as movies based on Neil Gaiman books go, I loved Stardust to pieces and found MirrorMask more uniquely quirky (and just plain strange) than Coraline. If you've never seen any of the above, perhaps you won't have the same impression of Coraline as I did.

We watched Coraline in 3D, and to be honest I don't think it made much difference to our enjoyment of the film. The 3D was mostly quite understated; it added some depth to the backgrounds but there was nothing truly outstanding about it. I don't think there's any real advantage to seeing it in 3D.

Overall I have to admit that I was disappointed with Coraline, but it's not a bad film. I guess I was expecting it to be a lot funnier and more surreal, whereas I found it more whimsical than anything. Definitely give it a go if my review hasn't put you off too much though!


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