Coraline impresses with 3D effects

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A production still from making Caroline

Gazette File Photos

YEP, 3D IS MAKING A COMEBACK. (top) Henry Selick’s Coraline is the first stop-motion film to make use of the newest 3D technology. (bottom) Terri Hatcher and Dakota Fanning star as Mel and Coraline.

Directed by: Henry Selick
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman

4.5 stars

If the movie industry is serious about 3D making a comeback, let them use Coraline as a guide.

Based on the award-winning Neil Gaiman novella, Coraline is a magical 101-minute tale of a young girl’s journey to a parallel universe. Comparable to a mix between Alice in Wonderland and The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline gives audiences a perfect combination of stunning visual effects and an equally engaging story.

The film begins as Coraline Jones (Fanning) and her parents, Mel and Charlie (Hatcher and Hodgman), move across the country from Michigan to the Pink Palace Apartments in Oregon. Lonely and not used to her new surroundings, Coraline sets out to explore the place she now calls home.

She meets a number of unbelievable characters along the way: Wybie Lovat, the irritating grandson of the Pink Palace’s landlady; Mr. Bobinsky, the Russian and Montenegrin former gymnast who runs a circus comprised of rodents; and Miss Forcible and Miss Spink, a rambunctious duo of retired actresses.

The most significant discovery Coraline makes while investigating her new home is a small doorway in their den which leads her to an alternate, and seemingly utopian, universe " where her “other parents” fulfil all of Coraline’s wishes, pay attention to her and life is overall more interesting. However, not surprisingly, this ideal world is too good to be true.

A still from Caroline

The vocal talents involved in the film proved effective. Fanning fits the role of the curious young Coraline perfectly, and Hatcher and Hodgman were able to adjust their style of speech when transitioning from Coraline’s real parents to her “other parents.” However, the most vocally interesting characters go to Ian McShane as Mr. Bobinsky and Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders as the dynamic duo of Forcible and Spink.

Despite its talented cast, where this movie truly shines is in its engaging story and engrossing visual effects.

Coraline is as much a dark fantasy as it is a story many children and adults can relate to. It’s a story about being lonely, feeling isolated and unwanted, but eventually coming to terms with your surroundings. It’s also a story about passing judgment on others and how doing so too quickly can, more often than not, be dangerous.

The first stop-motion film to take advantage of the latest 3D technology, Coraline’s use of 3D is subtle yet incredibly effective. The film’s limited use of the attention-grabbing effects proves it is possible for 3D to serve not only as a flashy gimmick, but also as an important feature in cinematic art.

Having The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach in his repertoire, director Henry Selick has pushed his creative limits with Coraline. While his distinct style of mixing fantasy with a healthy dose of horror remains intact, it is in a refined sense, appealing to both children and adults. Coraline also gives hope to 3D enthusiasts, as it proves the technology can succeed and be artistically relevant.

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