Friday, February 26, 2010

Film Review - Coraline

Film #29 of 2010 - Coraline

Adapted from Neil Gaiman's book by Henry Selnick, who also directed the film, Coraline is the fantasy story of a adventurous Coraline Jones, (voiced by Dakota Fanning)who, with her parents (voiced by Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) move to a new house in another state. Unfortunately, her parents, who are writers, are too busy for Coraline at the moment, resulting in her looking for her own fun and adventures in a new environment she clearly hates. Equally annoying to Coraline is her neighbor, Wyborne, the grandson of the woman who owns the house the Jones' live in, who likes to follow her around. When Coraline finds a small door in their living room that leads to another world, one that is like a photo negative of her current life, where everyone is fun and attentive, she has to decide if she wants to remain in that life, with her "Other Mother" who cooks for her and dotes on her, or if she wants to go back to her own world. Complications arise, and Coraline finds that she may not have a choice in the matter any longer.

I have to admit, my feelings about Coraline are conflicted. From a technical standpoint, I liked it because I have a great deal of respect for the art of stop-motion animation, which takes a great deal of time and patience to produce. I'm really glad that, though not seen often, this medium has not died out in favor of an abundance of computer animation. I also loved the character designs and the creativity of the sets. Not surprisingly, Selnick was also behind The Nightmare Before Christmas, a movie I absolutely love, and one can see definite parallels between some of the designs. I really like the surreal, almost grotesque artwork on the characters; for someone who is generally not a fan of the animation genre (an understatement with few exceptions) this makes the film interesting to look at and I'm able to appreciate it almost from an artistic perspective. (See The Triplets of Belleville if you want more of the same, only hand drawn animation.) I also have to give kudos for the use of some great voice talent that aren't so mainstream. Yes, there were big names with Fanning and Hatcher, but the use of Hodgman, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French and Ian McShane as supporting characters was inspired, and a lot of fun.

Having an appreciation for the process and design is one thing, actually liking what's going on in the movie is quite another, and I was bored and irritated for the first half of the film. Not realizing that animated characters could be accused of grossly overacting, I became really annoyed with Coraline's character and her wild gesticulating and body movements. Yes, I realize that technically this is a kid's movie, and perhaps kids respond well to that, but I simply found it completely annoying. It also seemed to take a really long time to get going with the story, but when it did kick in, about the time I was ready to check out completely, it actually got really good. Unfortunately, however, it was half over at that point.

So, I liked the production, enjoyed some of the story and despised half of the film. That's not an easy critique to sum up, and I'm put in the position of figuring out if liking one supporting aspect outweighs or even balances really disliking something overall. I guess I'll have to just go with the law of averages.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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