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"Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

~Ephesians 5:16

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Coraline Review

Part family movie, part horror, part fantasy, part haunted house, Coraline fits into quite a few genres. This rather unique adventure came out three years ago. I remember the hype for it being it one creepy little stop motion film in the vein of The Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse's Bride. I had always been curious about this film, but never got a chance to watch it. Three years later, I decided to give it a go. Coraline is one of the most unique films I've ever seen. It's visually entertaining, and the story is really engaging. Want a good movie to watch over the weekend with the family? I recommend checking out this imaginative masterpiece.

'From the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas.' All these years I thought Tim Burton had directed that classic, only after watching this film I realized he hadn't. So during this movie, I thought he was the one behind it. The story is also something you'd expect from a stop motion Burton film. It's deep and has hidden meanings from how you interpret it. Coraline as you guessed is the main focus, we're introduced to her and her parents early on. Turns out she just moved to a place in pretty much the middle of nowhere. After meeting with a boy named Wyborne, she gets a 'gift' in front of her door. It's a doll that looks mysteriously like her. In the house she finds a rather small door. Upon opening it, there's just brick wall. Well that's the end of that, right? No. Once she she falls asleep, these mice come into her room, then run away. She follows them to the door. Upon opening it this time, she finds a circulating tunnel. On the other side is her house, except it's in less disarray and looks like a dream place. Her parents are everything she wants them to be...minus the odd looking buttons for their eyes. It seems like a dream come true, everyone and everything caters to her every need. But life can't be that perfect, right? Of course not. "Be careful what you wish for..." for the 'Other Mother' wants to EAT YOUR SOUL.

Quite the intriguing premise. This film does an excellent job establishing the characters and their quirks. Coraline at first is portrayed as a little unlikable, then we see that her parents barely pay attention to her at the moment since they all just moved in. As the film goes on she learns humility and appreciates her parents. (Especially after the Other Mother tries to practically destroy her!) Stop motion films aren't quite abundant, so when they do come, people look forward to them. (Frankenweenie.) CGI wouldn't be able to accomplish the atmosphere stop motion gives this film, it's quite a spectacle. A highlight is the garden unfolding in the 'Other World.' I also like how detailed the facial expressions are. One minute Coraline is smiling and the next she could be looking pretty mad. CGI also wouldn't be able to accomplish the creepy transformation of the 'Other Mother,' or 'Beldam' as the Ghost Children like to call her. There are some really interesting characters in this. We have Wyborne, whom we can tell has a little crush on Coraline after meeting her. He's a rather strange one, with head usually cocked sideways. His 'Other Self' is a pretty good character. (Considering that he's mute there, that's a pretty big feat.) There's also the downstairs neighbors, these elderly retired actresses, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible. They're rather exotic, which is thanks to the fantastic voice work. (They're also fortune tellers!) Then there's Mr. Bobinsky, circus performer. He's the 'smart one,' the one the audience likes for his charisma. A negative with the film is that he's really underused. He gets one major scene, then that's pretty much it. He could have used a little more of a role. (His Other self gets a better role, but it would have been good if he did more in the real world.) Then there's one of my personal favorite characters, the Cat. He knows what's going on, the writing is triple A plus. (Yes, he talks...well only in the Other World.) Whether or not he was inspired by the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland is up for debate, (they do have similar roles and talk similar) there's no denying that he's one of the big pluses in the film. Whenever he's chatting with Coraline in the Other World, it's good stuff.

Going into Coraline I didn't know what to expect in terms of villains. I knew from the trailers they showed her parents with the creepy buttons for eyes, so I had always assumed the 'villain' was some kind of warped other dimension. Turns out it's another world created by the 'Other Mother' or Beldam. (I can't decide what to call her!) She watches children who are unhappy through a doll that looks like them, entices them with a dream world in the little door, convinces them to sew their eyes with buttons, then...eats their souls. The transformation from Coraline's normal looking mom to that deranged thing was pretty horrifying, (thanks to the wonders of stop motion!) and the writing is phenomenal. An evil, but not mindless creature. Smart and cunning. Which brings me to a point...Coraline didn't act surprised enough when she saw that her 'parents' had buttons. It seemed like she just went with the flow. And later while trying to get the rat with one of the eyes, she actually throws the green seeing stone. What? I don't think anyone would risk losing something that important like that. Nothing major of course, just a couple of things worth pointing out. I also think we should have gotten a little bit of an origin for the Other Mother and the world she created.

Dakota Fanning does the voice work for the title character, an excellent job. She can display happiness, anger, and sadness all very well. The film's soundtrack is what you get when you grab a classic Disney film's and darken it. From the more light-hearted themes to the creepy orchestrated ones, they compliment the film. (I would have liked to hear some choir in there, but that's just me.) What really makes this film special and stand out is the atmosphere and how it draws the viewer in. You have no idea what's coming. It's little things like the doll observing from the window that adds to the creepy atmosphere.

Overall, Coraline is what I consider to be a 'real' movie. There's a lot of thought put into the plot, (unintentional rhyme) the characters are great, and the story itself is engaging. I haven't seen a film like this in awhile. Visually it's entertaining, with amazing visuals that only stop motion can capture. Let's not forget the creepy factor. It's really quite unnerving sometimes, which is impressive. With a great main character and fantastic antagonist, Coraline is a movie I recommend to everyone. It doesn't disappoint in the slightest.


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