Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Be careful what you wish for

Director: Henry Selick
Voice talent: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Ian McShane
Released: 6/09/09

Oscar nominations:
Best Animated Picture (lost to Up)

For some reason I thought Tim Burton directed this film. For one thing, it has a very Burton-esque vibe to it and this is also from the same guy who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, another movie I thought was directed by Burton (well, when they call it Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, can you blame me?) But apparently he wrote and produced that one. I don't think he had anything to do with Coraline.

I enjoyed this film because it reminded me of one of my favorite flicks, Pan's Labyrinth, which was my second favorite movie of 2006. Like that movie, this one features a young girl who's not happy with her reality (although her problems are pretty mundane compared to those of the girl in Pan's) and escapes into an alternate fantasy world. Coraline (there's a running joke where all the characters call her Caroline) is voiced by Dakota Fanning and if I didn't already know it was her, I don't think I would have known who was voicing her as Fanning has a pretty generic sounding voice and sounds just like any other American teenaged girl. However, if I didn't already know she voiced the mother, I would have instantly recognized Teri Hatcher's voice. (Probably because I watch Desperate Housewives every Sunday).

Coraline, who resents her parents for being too busy with their work, finds a small door in the huge old rickety house she and her parents have recently moved into, but when she opens it she finds a layer of bricks blocking passage. Eventually she gets through and ends up in another world that is exactly like the one she already lives in except everyone has buttons for eyes and her neighbor's cat talks. At first everything is great and perfect: her "other" mother cooks these fabulous feasts and her "other" neighbors put on these fantastic shows for her and her "other" friend. Of course those sayings "too good to be true" and "be careful what you wish for" apply to this movie and Coraline soon wishes she had never entered that world.

I have to say, for an animated movie, there was creepy and disturbing images (the stuffed Scotties for one). Of course not all animated movies are geared towards children and this is one of them.

Coraline doesn't use traditional hand-drawn animation or computer animation. Instead it is stop-motion which I found was essential and added to the story. Had the same story been done with computer animation, it just wouldn't be the same.

There is no doubt that Coraline will be nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars this year and if I didn't love Up so much, I would be rooting for it. Actually, 2009 has been a great year for animation. I haven't seen The Princess and the Frog or Fantastic Mr. Fox yet, but I've heard good things about them.

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