Monday, March 2, 2009


A Henry Selick film wouldn’t be complete without eerily crafted creatures created from inanimate objects that project an independent sense of spookiness. When Coraline opens, we are greeted by mechanical hands fashioned from sewing needles. The needles are structured much like the bones in a skeletal set of hands. These needle hands exist in a parallel world where they create a doll that looks very much like our title character, Coraline. I viewed Coraline at a theater that used the 3-D format.

Coraline feels that she is invisible. Her parents have moved into an old house that has been divided into three apartments. Her mom and dad are creating a gardening catalog, which consumes a great deal of time. Her parents never seem to have spare time to spend with Coraline. Coraline meets a strange boy named Wyborn (why born) who brings her a mysterious doll that he found in his grandmother’s (Coraline’s landlady) trunk. Wyborn explains to Coraline that his grandmother does not allow him in the apartments because she lost her sister in the house many years ago.

The neighbors in the apartment house include unique and interesting characters. Two elderly ladies who once performed theater together live in the basement apartment. The second floor resident trains performing mice. They are an odd set of neighbors sure to create fun and interesting diversion. The old house has many secrets, which Coraline sets out to explore. Among them is a papered over door which opens with a button-key. What appears to be a bricked over doorway holds a secret that draws Coraline in. It is a portal to the other-world where Selick-magic prevails.

Henry Selick Directed this film from a screenplay he adapted from a book written by Neil Gaiman. At its core, Coraline is a story about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. It is a dark film with eccentric characters. Yet compared to Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, I found Coraline to lack the dark undercurrents that permeated the former. Although there were dark elements to Coraline, the storyline empowered the young central character. The plot lines were interesting although simple. I found the overall plot to be predictable, but this film stands on its ability to tell the story in a unique fashion. It succeeded.

Dakota Fanning provides the voice of young Coraline, who also seems exasperated by people who call her Caroline. An easy enough mistake. Fanning does a good job of creating that exasperation without hamming it up. Although the performance is voice-over for animation, I though Fanning was excellent. Her ability to create tension was excellent, but it was the subtle traits of her character that Fanning deftly created for Coraline. The other voice actors included Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Keith David, John Hodgman and Robert Bailey, Jr. None of these actors stood out above the rest, other than Ian McShane who provided life to Mr. Bobinski. Bobinski is the upstairs neighbor with a thick Eastern European accent. McShane made me snicker on a few occasions with his heavy accent and use of language. McShane and Fanning delivered notable performances.

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