(Henry Selick, 2009)

A confession: I’ve never seen Selick’s previous work The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach or Monkeybone. Two of these I have no excuse for, and the third has to do with an aversion to most things Brendan Fraser.

So, I approached Coraline as a newborn babe would, through the looking glass, and I have to say I’m somewhat sold on the hype.

Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning), new in town and ignored by her parents, travels through a tunnel to an alternate universe with an Other Mother and Father (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) that at first appears much nicer than her own. Soon enough, her Other World turns more sinister and frightening, and Coraline must struggle to return to her real parents or lose them forever.

The film was stylishly conceived and appears to be painstakingly executed. It also adheres to elements of some classic creepy children’s stories. Some of the simple terrifying elements — like the sewn-on buttons over characters’ eyes — are original and effective. But there’s so much else thrown in that it comes off as sensory overload. Maybe I’m not schooled in Selick-lore, but are all his films this chock-full of visual stimuli? My head was spinning, and I think it detracts from the story. The voice-acting was inconsistent, particularly when it came to the main character.

Older children who are interested in darker and certainly weirder material, as well as fans of Selick’s earlier work, might find this more memorable than me. As an adult, I found it perfectly watchable, and worthy of Selick’s cult stature.  It may require repeated viewings, but there is much there to chew on. And of course, there’s no Brendan Fraser to work around.



Posted on August 24, 2009, in Film log and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I thought CORALINE was pretty wonderful, though not quite up there with THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Can’t believe you haven’t seen that one yet; it’s a well-deserved classic and the only movie I watch every Christmas season. JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH isn’t so great and can be avoided, in my opinion.

  2. If he’s not your cup of tea, I doubt telling you that I found Blast from the Past to be irresistably charming and full of heart is going to move the needle on the Fraser meter. But there you go. Also: you get Christopher Walken, Sissy Spacek, Dave Foley and Alicia Silverstone thrown in.

  3. Oh, I hope people know me enough by now to know I’m a big kidder. Fraser’s not terribly offensive, and I thought he was actually pretty great in GODS AND MONSTERS.

    Now, Nic Cage, mostly since ZANDALEE, that’s a different story.

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