Saturday, February 07, 2009

Coraline: A Review

Coraline, for those of you who don't know, is a stop motion feature by the same folks (read: geniuses) that brought us The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. It's based on a "children's book" by the amazing, brilliant, (did I say amazing already?) gift to readers everywhere; Neil (God Amongst Men) Gaiman.

I read this book on a lark in the beginning stages of my Gaiman worship. "Meh, it's just a kid's book but it will probably be great 'cause everything else this man has written is faboo!" I should have known better.

Coraline Jones is an unhappy little girl who discovers a magical door in her new home that leads into another apartment that is exactly like her own, only BETTER. She is greeted by her Other Mother, an outwardly sweet, caring, insightful mother, a direct contrast to Coraline's real mother. She returns again and again to play in her other garden and play games with her Other Father troubled only by the cryptic warnings from some performing mice and a snarky world-hopping talking cat. Soon the Other Mother invites Coraline to stay in that happy place forever, with one disturbing condition...

As I lay awake that night, contemplating turning on my desk lamp to keep the terror at bay but being too afraid of the Other Mother's spidery hands suddenly grasping my ankles if my feet touched the floor, I wondered what kind of sick joke the publishers were playing calling that a "kid's book"

Ok, ok so it wasn't that scary (then again I am easily frightened and impressionable) But I can honestly say I could never in good conscious read Coraline to a least not a child I liked.

Now, about the movie! Let me rave, as amazing as we all remember the animation for A Nightmare and Giant Peach being, Coraline BLOWS THEM ALL AWAY. Imagine: a forest of cherry blossom trees made from painted pieces of popcorn, 500 hand made Scottie dogs that fill every seat in a theater, and 3500 handcrafted flowers that all light up. You haven't seen anything like this folks.

This movie was beautiful. The opening scene alone, while being really disturbing, was eye-popping! The filmmakers were very true to their source material,
with the exception of adding a friend character that didn't exist in the books. This didn't bother me as the friend, Wybie, had a purpose, moved the plot and character along without adding unnecessary weight as can happen in movie adaptations and was surprisingly interesting. The music was eerie in mold with the overall tone of the movie (innocence faced with intense creepiness). A circus scene features a very catchy little number with a great beat that I loved and the Other Father sings a charming song to Coraline that's loaded with foreshadowing! The villain's reveal scene is very reminiscent of the Boogy-Man's scenes at the end of A Nightmare and twice as creepy.

My favorite/least favorite characters have to be the weird neighbors. Upstairs is Mr. Bobinsky; a classic weirdo who trains jumping mice in between bouts of extreme acrobatics on the stair cases that lead to his apartment. Downstairs are the Misses Spink and Forcible; retired actresses who keep the stuffed corpses of all of the Scottie dogs they've ever had dressed in angel outfits and mounted on the wall. The character designs for these characters are just one aspect of the multitude of disturbing imagery in this movie. Mr. Bobinsky is freakishly tall, with spidery legs teetering under an enormous gut wrapped in a greasy wife-beater.

Spink and Forcible however, both amused and terrified me. There aren't really any pictures of Miss Forcible that capture the true horror. Her boobs are freakishly, nightmarishly HUGE. She's kinda hiding 'em in the pic I found but imagine Angela Lansbury carrying two car tire sized watermelons in her bra and you get the idea. The horrifying part comes in a sequence I won't describe here to avoid spoilers, but I supply these words and when your brain stops screaming you can fill in the blanks: A diving board, wrinkles, cellulite, a sequined thong, the algorithm from Dead or Alive and sparkly, sea-shell shaped pasties.
Over all, even though I was expecting it this time, I was thoroughly frightened by this movie, and I loved every minute of it! Its freaky fun that's already getting talked about for the Oscars next year!

Coraline is voiced by Dakota Fanning, (not at all irritating when she cant be seen with her creepy little fairy teeth), and the movie also features Teri Hatcher (from Desperate Housewives or the Adventures of Lois and Clark, whichever you want to admit to watching) as Mother/the Other Mother, John Hodgeman (AKA P.C. and from the Daily Show) as Father/the Other Father and Ian McShane (Deadwood) as the hilariously odd Mr. Bobinsky. It's rated PG (oddly, as disturbing imagery is abound) and playing NOW! Go see it! (if you are a coward like me, buy a nightlight)You won't be able to see buttons without shuddering for a very long time!

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