Starring (the voices of): Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Ian McShane
Director: Henry Selick
Writer(s): Henry Selick, Neil Gaiman
Cinematography: Peter Kozachik
Original Score: Bruno Coulais, They Might Be Giants
Running Time: 100 Mins.
A sumptuous visual feast, is probably the best way of describing Coraline, having seen it in 3D largely helps with Henry Selick’s (The Nightmare Before Christmas and James & The Giant Peach) latest realisation of a new fantastical world based around the extremities of our own. The latest in an endless stream of film’s to be ripped (lovingly on this occasion) from a graphic novel/comic Coraline follows the exploits of the titular character as she finds a parallel world where her parents seem, on the surface, to be a vast improvement on her real parents. These, you see, are her “other parents” the difference being they have button’s for eyes, as do the rest of the inhabitants doubling up from Coraline’s real world.
Selick, as with his past directrial efforts fills ever frame with wonder and intrigue, it helps of course that he has such a rich and vivid source material to work from, but to bring something from page to screen is often very hard to both visualise in a way so as to capture the source material’s essence and also convey a style of the directors own. Here Selick delivers in spades, and I implore you to find another film this year that is quite as visually arresting and creative as Coraline.
As is Selick’s forte the story is visualized using largely stop-motion animation with the bare minimum of CGI, as with Disney returning to hand drawn animation later this year with The Princess & the Frog, it is just as much of an achievement to recognise that this style of snimation is still well and truly alive. All the more encouraging is how well it is achieved and how new technologies are helping rather than hindering the classic process to punctuate the individuality of stop motion animation.
So good the film is throughout for visuals and direction, to pick out scenes as standout seems nigh on impossible,though I have to say the animation of the accentuted human characters is spot on with My Bobinsky, as voiced by Ian McShane being a favourite, though for each exceptionally well voiced charcter is one not so well delivered and this is the main issue I had with the film. All the characters, bar McShane are very much unrecognisable, ordinarily this would not be an issue and I have to admit the Dreamworks animation films stuffed full of big names can become a little tiresome but here the lack of animation in the voice work undermines the top class visuals on display.
Dakota Fanning is vibrant as you would expect in voicing Coraline, but along side her are people such as Teri Hatcher (who is a strange choice to begin with) and Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French who really hold back when they should have been able to let go and bring their larger than life chracters to, well, life! Despite a slight tarnish to the film through this I wouldn’t dwell on it too much as the score and music by Bruno Coulais and They Might Be Giants is truly heartfelt, pitching the tone perfectly to the on screen action and giving Coraline a dreamlike feel it so effortlessly calls for.
Sadly there is something else lacking that prevents it from reaching the leves of Wallace and Gromit for example or Toy Story by comparion of a CGI effort, it might just be something as simple as a dearth of memorable characters but it really is something taht drags the film away from the enjoyment you want to derive from it.
Finally I would draw attention to the fact that this is one of the raft of 3D films on screens this year and comes amidst the so-called revolution we are seeing with the boom of 3D output by studios. As I said before, the 3D elements of Coraline are subtle and are not there to poke things at you, yet I couldn’t help but feel it didn’t make the experience special enough to warrant the extra cost (to cinema ticket price) added by it being in 3D. So as the debate over 3D rages on, I would suggest this is best offering yet of using it to enhance the film and its story, rather than to simply point things at you to make a more interactive experience i.e. Monsters vs. Aliens.
An absolute gem to look at and listen too, Selick is the master of stop motion animation and Coraline is his masterpiece. Let down ever so slightly by some flat voice work in places, this ultimately lets it down overall, highlighting that despite its beauty there is “something” lacking.