Harry swoons over CORALINE!!!
A Film For Brave Boys & Girls...
That's how Henry Selick introduced the AICN Austin Screening of CORALINE, the film at the top of my list of Best Films I've Seen in 2009. Of course, there's not really much else on the list at this point, as most of what has come out, are films that were screened in 2008 for Critics, but I think CORALINE is going to have significant legs for my enduring affection.
It combines 3 of my favorite things...
1. STOP MOTION ANIMATION... Henry Selick is the undisputed master of the long form Stop Motion Animation movie. With NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH and now CORALINE - he again takes the form and does wonders with it. With every cat whisker, every petal of a living garden, every hair placed by hand... This film is a feast for the eyes... and those of us that pay acute attention will notice that this isn't the same German Expressionistic vibe that you got from NIGHTMARE and CORPSE BRIDE (films I loved), but a richer more calmly delightful palette which feels very much like a warped 1960's aesthetic, think Fiesta Ware pottery and the palatte crystallizes for you. It fits wonderfully. Yes, I know it first came about in the 30's, but it became oh so pop in the 60s.
2. Neil Gaiman... I remember still the days I was introduced to his SANDMAN stories. I read them in bed, because they felt like a performance enhancing drug for lucid dreaming... and they were. Gaiman has a loving, dangerous, intoxicating game of footsie that he plays with the realms that could be described as enchanted. His book, CORALINE is a beloved tome, lovingly brought to life here as Neil dreamt... through the meticulous majesty of Henry Selick's peculiar talents.
3. 3D... Henry Selick's films have a uniformed effect upon me. I want all the toys. Watching those characters moving on that screen... I bought the entire line of Japanese NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH toys - and I'm praying and hoping to see the Japanese do majesty to this realm of creations too. There's a tactile desire to move these characters yourself. When you see a movie of toys (actually impossibly well-crafted and jointed armatures) that come to life through the time lapse magic of all the invisible animators that embody these creations with life itself. AND NOW... IN 3D! Not a 3D that slaps you, but invites you to look closer, to dip your head into the screen instead of dodging things coming at you. Adding to the brilliance is the realization that a single lens, moved barely to photograph 3D from a miniature perspective seems herculeanly impossible to conceive. Yet it makes complete sense.
The result of these three aspects being brought to bare with this film left me smiling throughout. An appreciation for 3 artforms all working in their peak form.
This isn't NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. This is a completely different universe and style of story-telling. It feels less like the most amazing Seasonal offering, and more like a fairy tale to show your children that gives them the confidence to be curious and the awareness to the dangers that come with it.
Is the film too adult for kids? Absolutely not.
Is the film too childish for adults? Absolutely not.
This is an exquisite creation. A film made of two universes.... ourverse and the otherverse. The otherverse isn't nearly as infinite in expanse and space, but its possibilities seem to far exceed those of ourverse. The question I found myself pondering was... if given a choice between never again visiting a magical universe of stunning possibilities and the mundane world of our actual existence for the mere price of buttoning my eyes... I'm pretty sure I'd want to sew them shut and live with magic.
Not that that would be the right choice, but it sure would be a tempting one.
The voice work of the cast is uniformly great. In particular John Hodgman's Other Father, Ian McShane's Mr. Bobinsky and Keith David's CAT just entranced me. McShane's Bobinsky never fails to make me smile, while Keith David's CAT voice - combined with the Kong-like fur animation... well... it literally makes me giggle with delight. Especially since the cat defies all laws of the physical universe - and does so absolutely naturally supernatural. When the cat does something, it just feels like a cat should be able to do that... and I'm not a cat person.
The doggies and the hopping circus mice are the most delightfully animated creations, to me, in the film.
But I have to report that Dakota Fanning's Coraline Jones is the anchor of this magical ship. The magic is that Dakota makes her feel like a real girl - and the animation stylistically creates a magic alternative glimpse of a dream of a little girl, rather than an actual one.
If you're wanting to see this film in 3D, you really must rush. As the JONAS BROTHERS' 3D MOVIE will be taking it from every 3D screen in the country. And while this film is absolutely amazing in 3D... I have no doubts that it would delight without fail in 2D. The 3D doesn't make it a BETTER movie, just a slightly more magical one.
If you don't have kids... but you consider yourself a cool girl or perhaps you know, date or are married to a cool girl... this film is for all of you. Especially if they've ever gotten a tattoo, a crazy hair color, a cat, have knitted, have a wistful longing for magic. That isn't to say it's overtly girly, but this film has that magic that girls possess. If you appreciate that, you'll truly and dearly love this flickering fairy tale. This film is salve for magical longing and satiates those with a thirst for whimsy.