Review — Coraline (film)

Coraline is adapted from the Hugo-winning Neil Gaiman novella (illustrated by Dave McKean) and directed by Henry Selick, who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas. It is advertised as the first stop-motion film created for 3-D.

The voice acting is strong, meshing well with the character modeling chosen for the film version.  The film makes a few changes from the novella, most notably in adding a companion character for Coraline, Wybie Lovat.  Wybie provides some exposition that contextualizes the events at the house, and is part of the film adaptation’s efforts to flesh out the story into a shapen and scope that fits the medium and the time (111 minutes).

If you don’t know the novella, here’s a short synopsis:

Coraline Jones is an inquisitive, curious explorer of a nine year old girl.  She and her family have moved into an apartment in an old house in the country, but is ignored by her parents, who are both writers.  In the film, her parents are up against a deadline, which accounts for their distaction.

After exploring the house and the environs, she finds, inside the house, a door to nowhere.  The door leads to a mirror of her apartment, but with her ‘Other Mother,’ who looks the same except for black buttons as her eyes.  As Coraline’s visits to the world of the Other Mother continue, the wonderous turns to the delightfully creepy, as Selick and his team build on Gaiman’s surrealist vision to deliver a story that is tight, symbolicaly rich but never confusing.

To speak more about the voice talent — Dakota Fanning gives the right balance of youth, curiosity and spunk for Coraline, Teri Hatcher plays from distracted to warm to terrifying as the Mother/Other Mother, and John Hodgeman puts in a great supporting performance as the Father/Other Father.

Coraline is one of a sadly few film adaptations of novels/textual works where the adaptation both adds to the original work while doing justice to its source material.  Selick’s film Coraline gives a visual/auditory experience which enriches the textual experience of Gaiman (and McKean, if you have the illustrations)’s novella.  A viewer can easily appreciate the film version without having read the book, as did my sister.

The film is currently playing in 3-D for a limited time, and I highly recommend that everyone take the chance to see it in 3-D.  Unlike “Chuck vs. The Third Dimension,” Coraline makes striking use of the 3-D technology, enhancing critical emotional moments and providing texture for the film.  The 3-D provides a depth of field, makes the high-emotion moments ‘pop,’ and creates an overall more visceral experience.

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