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“You probably think this world is a dream come true. But you’re wrong.”
Country: United States
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Keith David, John Hodgman, Ian McShane
Director: Henry Selick
Run time: 101 minutes
DVD distributor: Alliance Films
I really don’t like 3-D movies. It’s not the embarassment of wearing those stupid glasses – when you’re at the theatres, you are among hundreds of other silly-looking dweebs wearing the same thing. So who cares. But at home, I like to do certain things while watching a film, like take notes. Because I’m going to write a review. Or occasionally glance up at the clock, or the DVD display on my Blu-Ray player, to find out how much time is left in the movie.
And with the glasses, all of those things are impossible. I must sit, utterly focused on the film, without moving my nose this way and that, without turning my head or breathing too hard, lest the silly little cardboard things slide off my face. So I much prefer the 2-D version of any 3-D movie. The extra dimension is usually unnecessary, and the picture quality in 2D is always consistent, whereas the 3D picture is almost always blurry, at least in spots.
Coraline is no different. There are some pretty neat things to see in 3-D. A magical garden is impressive, as is a circus of jumping mice. But the visual panache exists almost as well in 2-D, and I would rather watch this remarkable film without being constantly aware of the cardboard on my face. Thankfully, the movie comes in both versions. Flip the disc over for the version you want. And a second disc crammed with special features details the making of the movie and the voicework.
The voice work is one of the most impressive things in Coraline, the story of a young girl who travels through a tunnel in her house into a parallel universe where everything that is wrong with her current life is made right. Her “other mother” is not consumed with her work, and cooks amazing dinners instead of ketchup-and-salsa sandwiches. Her “other father” tends a beautiful garden, invents crazy contraptions and plays piano, instead of sitting at a computer and telling Coraline to get lost.
Coraline herself is voiced by Dakota Fanning, who manages to convey both wonder and fear in equal parts, and she is fabulous. Ian McShane provides the voice of eccentric neighbour Mr. Bobinsky, who is a lot of fun even if he is dismissed by Coraline’s mother as “a drunk”. Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders play the two bizarre theatrical ladies who live downstairs from Coraline’s family, and John Hodgman is terrific as Coraline’s father. (And her “other father”.)
But it’s Teri Hatcher who is the best voice in the cast. As Coraline’s mother she is distracted, fed up, and irritable. As Coraline’s Other Mother, she is sweet and charming and full of love yet somehow still sinister. Hatcher is remarkable at all of it, and it’s through her that the sinister tone of the movie is maintained through the splendours Coraline encounters in the Other World.
Well, Hatcher and the buttons. You see, Coraline’s Other Mother, her Other Father, and all the Other characters we see in the fantasy world all have buttons where their eyes should be. And if Coraline wants to join the “better” world permanently, all she has to do is allow her Other Mother to sew buttons onto her eyes as well. Coraline, understandably, balks at the idea.
Coraline is not flawless. The DVD box claims that the movie is from the director of A Nightmare Before Christmas, and this is true. Henry Selick directed both movies. But clearly the name that most people will associate with Nightmare is that of Tim Burton. Burton did not direct Nightmare, but produced it and designed it and wrote it. Burton is not involved with Coraline, which could have used a little more of Burton’s eye, finding the sinister in the beautiful. And the ending is a little too easy.
But there is more than enough outstanding voice work, some truly memorable characters including a neighbourhood boy and a mysterious cat. The stop-motion animation is top-notch. Visually, Coraline is a marvel in both 3-D and 2-D, and both the “real” world and the “other” world are beautifully rendered. and although it could use a little more darkness, there is an abundance of charm throughout the movie. Coraline was released July 21st by Alliance Films. You can decide whether you want to wear the silly glasses.