Monday, 25 January 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Coraline

Excuse the screw-ups, and excuse me Blogger, I managed to get the thing working. Here's the review for Coraline

Okay, back from my break. God, I hate exams. I mean, they schedule these things so that they can find out if you have been working all year. Well, I revised about two days worth for History, and hey, I think that I have done pretty damn well, so touché to you bozos! Anyway, digressions aside, what we have on our platters here is Coraline, the new film from Henry Selznick, adapted from the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name. Now, the name Henry Selznick may not be familiar to you, but he is the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, and is his long-awaited return to the stop-motion animated format. Oh, and by the way, Neil Gaiman is only one of the most prominent writers in Britain, famous for the Sandman comics and Stardust, amongst others. So, yeah, we have big players involved in this one. Can I say as well, before we get into the film, in the wake of animated films such Up by Pixar and Madagascar 2 by Dreamworks, this is the kind of movie that would be oft-overlooked, so even if you are not particularly interested, just do yourself a favour and rent this out. Alright, the story is that Coraline, voiced by Dakota Fanning, has just moved from Michigan to a converted mansion, also housed by retired actresses Spink and Forsible, voiced by Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, and a retired Russian circus performer, Mr Bobinsky, voiced by Ian McShane. Also living in the area is Wybie, voiced by Robert Bailey Jr, and his cat. Coraline's parents are often busy working, and as such she feels disconnected from them, and finds in the mansion a door into an alternative universe where her parents are perfect. However, when does not wish to say, this irks her Other Mother, voiced by Teri Hatcher, and it becomes a battle to escape the alternate universe. With that done and dusted, hopefully without revealing too much about the film, word of course must be brought to the animation of the film, being an animated film of course. In a world of cinema that is inhabited by computer-generated 3D animated films, watched Coraline truly is a breath of fresh air. Not to slander 3D CG animation, but there really is so much of it that your eyes have become so used to it that the novelty wears off. Here, in the context of the 3D CG animated world, is where Coraline revels. It is rare to see stop-motion animation in films, and as such it is a real treat to witness. However, because stop-motion animation is all created by hand, some films done in this style have the tendency to be lazy. With this however, lazy would be a fierce insult. The film is lavish and majestic in its colour pallet, with contrasting colours between the dark and grime and the bright and wondrous of the separate worlds are done superbly. Furthermore, the animation is astonishingly inventive in the film. Certain sequences in the film stand out for me as some of the best animated sequences in film due to sheer inventiveness in the context of the story. Also, the emotion of the story is portrayed excellently. Instead of being a rigid, dry film completely vacant of emotion, it brilliantly complements the world of the film, as it does complement brilliantly the great voice acting. Dakota Fanning portrays Coraline in a very finely handled vocal performance, capturing the various emotions of the character. French and Saunders, in many respects playing up their television roles, provide the film with a really zany and manic humour. Also, The Cat, who in the alternative universe can speak, is portrayed with suitable gusto by Keith David, in what is very a personification of the old cliché of the sly Cheshire cat. The standout vocal performance is however that of Teri Hatcher, played both Coraline's Mother and her Other Mother. Because of the story, her role as Coraline's Mother very much takes a backseat, but it is her performance as The Other Mother which really is remarkable. The character is portrayed excellently, not hindered of course by a well-written, multi-faceted character. There is a real seductiveness to the character, but she is also absolutely terrifying. Although the character would be more frightening to a child, I still found the character to be very frightening. Deep down inside all of us, there is a real subconsciously embedded fear of a mother like the Other Mother. She is too perfect and as a result lacks the human flaws that all mothers, no matter how good they are possess. Also, there is a real interesting psychological complex in the idea of an evil mother who only wants to love their child. All of these great aspects of the film would not have been achievable without the talents of Henry Selznick. His adaptation of the text, a very short one at that, is well done, with the structure being very solid, and the dialogue being well written, delivering both the surrealism and absurdity of the story alongside what is a very relatable and ultimately human fairy tale. In many respects, Selznick role with this film is similar to that of James Cameron with Avatar. As a director, Selznick is involved in every part of the process of the film-making. In doing so, Selznick is able to get a grasp of the fuller picture, not only making a collaborative work as film is but delivering a work that is also completely his own. Now, I did not believe Coraline to be a masterpiece, but I think that it is the best animated film of the year, brimming with inventiveness and wonder, with solid voice acting and an all-round tour de force from Henry Selznick.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.7/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Adoration would be the word

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