May 09

Like Having A Zip For A Mouth Is Scary

Do You See + FT2 comments • 475 views

At the heart of Neil Gaiman’s kids book Coraline is one scary proposition. It is one that the whole book, and film is predicated on. That having buttons for eyes is frightening. Which is OK in the context of the film, which turns out like some sort of kiddie Un Chien Andalou*with pointy needles and the like. But it does tend to forget that in an awful lot of home-made knitted toys, and indeed snowmen, buttons ARE eyes.

But despite giving children morbid fears of their cuddly toys (good), Coraline is a terrific kids movie, properly scary and a proper fairytale. The downside is that like proper fairytales it can feel a little second hand, because – like proper fairytales – the story is cribbed from many other sources. The mysterious door to another world (Alice in Wonderland), the beautiful world hiding a deep secret (Hansel & Gretel), the quest to find a number of objects (er, Jason and the Argonauts) and then tricking the baddie (Rumplestilstkin). It all falls apart near the end in the kind of hyperactive ending that has often been the downfall of many comics, throwing all its balls in the air at once and telling, rather than showing, how clever our lead is. It all makes a perfectly pleasant confection, but the story won’t blow you away. The visuals are supposed to do that.

Perhaps they do in 3D (insert usual 3D rant here), and Henry Sellick’s stop motion animation is fantastically engrossing and detailed (perhaps a bit too much like an acid trip in places with some ill advised nudity too). It looks great in 2D though, and the central puppet performances are great fun to watch. Coraline beats Ginormica from Monsters vs Aliens as a proper female lead with something that feels like a real characteristic, and the moral of the tale is even appropriate for the modern age (parents are a bit rubbish). But perhaps, through a little door, into another Universe, there is an even better version of Coraline not quiet so hamstrung by its source material, able to fly as high as the terrific animation allows it.

*It is obligatory for every review to mention this, think they are being clever and then realise everyone else has noticed it too.


  1. 1
    Mark M on 13 May 2009 #

    The 3D was really good – I can’t really compare it to anything since I haven’t seen a 3D since I saw something enormously dull at the Trocodero IMAX years and years ago. One thing that occurred to me is the problem of trying to wear the 3D glasses and the spectacles some of us need to see the film in the first place. In the event, the 3D specs fit over my ultra-minimal glasses, but if you had Harry Palmer jobs you’d be stuffed.
    As for the actual film itself, I thought it was pretty good. I had minor quibbles here and there, but they were minor.

  2. 2
    Pete on 14 May 2009 #

    As ever I will point out 3D doesn’t work for me, but it didn’t really matter in Coraline’s case as I felt reassured that the 3D aspect of filming animation which is by essence 3D would work. I also got the feeling that Selick was using it in almost a Wizard Of Oz way, to make the parallel world seem more real (I have nothing to based this on).

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