Coraline

March 16, 2009 at 1:33 pm (Uncategorized)

Based on the good reviews it received, I decided to venture into the theatre to see Watchmen. However, a change of plan meant that we saw Coraline instead.

My daughter and I read Coraline when it was published. What’s not to love? It’s a great story for any child whoever felt neglected and sought change. Throw into the mix a resourceful and courageous child, quest, a feline accomplice, and a truly horrible villain and you have a  something wonderful:  A children’s story by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Dave McKean.

Realizing the story as a movie is a little trickier. The better the book, the more difficult the adaptation. Like the prospect of Watchmen, I was a little apprehensive about how it would turn out (I was disappointed by Mirror Mask, and although I haven’t seen it, the reviews for Stardust were luke warm.)  

No fear. It’s a joy.

Director Henry Selik has recreated the look of his earlier films (Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach), but also captured the feel of Gaiman’s story.

Coraline Jones moves into a big old house with her parents, who are slaves to a gardening catalogue (although neither one seems enamoured with the natural world).  Coraline explores her new world, meeting a black cat and the boy who looks after him, Wybie.  The boy, who is a new creation for the film, is the grandson of the owner of the house, who mysteriously, doesn’t usually rent to people who have children.

So, Coraline’s days before the beginning of school are filled with the people who populate the old house: Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, former actresses who live in the basement, and Mr. B, the Russian acrobat training  mice for his circus. Then one day, she discovers a door in a wall. But a door which, when opened,  is bricked up. That night, Coraline is led back to the door by a mouse with button eyes, and discovers a new world behind the door.  A world that is shiny and bright, and filled with wondrous treasures. In it, Corlaine finds her other parents, who are attentive and interesting, albeit with buttons for eyes. Nevertheless, it is the perfect world. But as Coraline returns over and over again, she discovers little hints that her new world is not the paradise it initially seems to be.

The other mother tells Coraline she can stay forever, but that like every creature in this brave new world, Coraline must have buttons sewn onto her eyes. At this point, Coraline rebels and discovers her other mother’s true nature. And then the horror surfaces. Coraline engages in a terrifying game of hide and seek to find the others the other mother has trapped in this nightmare world. 

It would be remiss though not to mention the 3-D.  It’s pretty cool. The danger with 3-D  in a film, is that it’s overused (and judging by the trailers I saw before the movie, there’s an awful lot upcoming). In Coraline,the effect is underplayed. The visual story is told with the depth that 3-D allows, but it’s not heavy handed or forced. And yes, there are more than a few ooh and aaahhh moments, especially in the wonders the other mother creates for Coraline.

It’s a faithful adaptatoin, which drags only a little in the middle. The doubts I had about the film are,  no doubt, influenced by my reading of the book. Alternately light and dark; funny and scary; Coraline  is a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.

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