Monday, February 9, 2009

New Release! Coraline reviewed by Guest Writer Mike Sullivan

I hate making fun of Hot Topic. It’s not because I buy my “Twilight” hoodies and man mascara there but because the store is such a big, fat mopey target. I mean, everybody makes fun of this place. Pointing out that Hot Topic sells rebellion to undiscerning 14 year olds is like pointing out that airplane food is often unappetizing. It’s an obvious observation that ceased being funny or insightful several years ago.

Yet as obvious as this observation can be it still bears repeating because Hot Topic is a truly horrible store. My main issue with this place is the fact that they’ve managed to turn “The Nightmare Before Christmas” into a grating, Goth fetish object. When I watch this movie I no longer see Henry Selick’s intricate stop-motion animation, I can only see the sneering faces of several million morbidly obese girls in Betty Page bangs. It’s tragic and it will happen again. It’s only a matter of time before Selick’s latest effort, “Coraline,” is co-opted and ruined by a store that sells summer scarves. So please, do me a huge favor and see “Coraline” before it’s turned into an ugly, ubiquitous tchotchke.

Based on a 2002 novel by Neil Gaiman (Yeah, I know. But don’t judge a book by its insufferably pretentious author), “Coraline”, not surprisingly, tells the story of Coraline Jones (the voice of Dakota Fanning) a needy and somewhat bratty pre-teen who moves with her distracted parents (John Hodgman and a surprisingly good Teri Hatcher) to an apartment in a seedy old house. With her parents busy writing a gardening catalogue, a bored Coraline starts to feel neglected until she stumbles upon a secret door in her living room. The door leads to an impossibly perfect mirror universe where she finds her “Other Parents” (Hodgman and Hatcher again) a perma-grinned couple with black buttons for eyes who claim to be Coraline’s real parents. Although initially charmed by her new, fun parents, Coraline grows apprehensive when their true intentions are revealed.

Like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (as well as “The Corpse Bride”) “Coraline” is a painstakingly crafted mini-epic that ably balances unfettered creepiness with genuine whimsy (both of which is on generous display during the opening credits sequence). However, unlike “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, the storyline is as well crafted as the stop-motion imagery. I particularly liked the fact that some of the script’s goofier throwaway details (like a cannon that shoots cotton candy, a collection of stuffed, bewinged Scotty dogs and a tractor/preying mantis/helicopter hybrid) play more sinister and significant roles later on. Odd, droll and, at times, surprisingly scary, “Coraline” is everything a kids film should be. Oh , by the way even though the film was shot in the amazing, miracle process of 3-D, it actually functions better without the distracting gimmick.

-- Mike Sullivan

1 comment:

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