I’ve seen Henry Selick’s stop-motion-animated Coraline twice now, once in a regular showing, and once in 3D. (The fact that I went to see it twice should, perhaps, be considered an early indicator that I liked the movie.)
Selick is the little-known director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is usually solely attributed to Tim Burton. This movie is based on the children’s novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman — an author whose own fame seems to burn brighter every year, as more of his work (Stardust, Beowulf) makes it to the big screen and his books sell like gangbusters and win awards. Despite Gaiman’s pedigree — and the well-regarded source — it becomes clear within a couple of minutes that this movie is really Selick’s masterpiece.
Coraline features, bar none, the best stop-motion animation I’ve ever seen. It’s clean, and fluid, and weird, and beautiful, and they do shots that I wouldn’t believe could be done with stop-motion. (Some of the techniques behind this are shown at the end of the closing credits.) Selick’s adaptation of Gaiman’s novel is also very well-done, pulling together a lovely story that develops Coraline’s character quite nicely.
The basic premise is that the titular character, one Coraline Jones, finds herself moved to a new town, with parents who are too busy to spend any time with her. She resigns herself to a boring, dreary life until one day she finds a small door hidden behind the wallpaper in their apartment. And while that door opens into a world of wonder and excitement, everything is not as it seems.
As I said before, the animation is far better than any other stop-motion outing I’ve seen, and the art direction is just spectacular, with sets that colourful and fantastic in every sense of the word. The 3D version of this movie has also been heavily praised, but for my part, I didn’t really find much difference between them. I didn’t feel nauseous or dizzy or get a headache, which is an improvement over other 3D films I’ve seen, and I mostly found the use of 3D to be subtle and unobtrusive. Perhaps that’s the point, however.
I really enjoyed Coraline, and can’t recommend it enough to fans of animation or good movies in general. It’s a delightful, mildly creepy fantasy journey that, overall, works really, really well.