Friday, 27 April 2012

Still Just a Child Inside ... and still scared by Coraline

I’ve said before how I love watching and reviewing all types of films so today I thought I would have a look at the children’s fantasy genre; one which I’m still exposed to quite a lot, being a babysitting 16 year old with a younger sister! I also get very nostalgic about films l loved when I was little and will still happily sit through Mulan just to prove I will never grow out of loving it!
Coraline is a “2009 American stop-motion” fantasy/horror children’s film, based on the 2002 book by Neil Gaiman. It was described on IMDB as being in 3D but I’m not sure if I was seeing it in 3D or not as I don’t know if our TV is 3D enabled. I don’t know if I would describe it as horror but it certainly had moments of genuinely creepy and chilling suspense and would definitely have terrified some younger children. It stars Dakota Fanning as Coraline. I’ve not seen her in anything else I can remember but her voice seemed very well suited to this role; as did Teri Hatcher (Desperate Housewives’ Susan Mayer) as her Mother and the “other Mother.”
Coraline won Annie Awards for best music, character design, and production design and received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Animated Feature. I think it’s a good example of a “family film” in that adults would appreciate the nuanced and skilful filmmaking and kids would identify with the characters and be swept up in the story. The film was directed by Henry Selick, who collaborated with Tim Burton on the fantastic animated films: The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. It’s made by a production company called Laika, which I don’t recognize but I was pleased to find myself watching an animated film NOT by Pixar, Disney or DreamWorks. Not that these studios aren’t talented and they do produce some great films but a bit of diversity can only be a good thing.
I started watching it with my little sister on a lazy Sunday afternoon when I probably should have been revising but after a busy weekend I thought we deserved a movie. She actually got bored long before me as I was really enjoying it and wandered off, however being twelve and probably concerned about not appearing to enjoy a “kids” film she isn’t really the target audience. She did say she loved it when she first saw it a few years ago though. While she was with me she kept warning me of the scary bits coming up which was so cute!
 My favourite thing was the gentle animation style that reminded me instantly of Zombie Hotel, a cartoon that used to be on CBBC which was a brilliant children’s programme and you should definitely watch it if you ever see it on TV! Honestly it was fantastic! I also liked the fact that Coraline isn’t too “Disney-fied” or although being set in the USA it isn’t obnoxiously “Americanised” like many Hollywood children’s productions such as the Alvin and the Chipmunks or Hannah Montana franchises. The characters are realistically drawn in an almost anime style – none of the squeaky clean Disney Channel bubble shaped characters. The film is dark enough for older kids to enjoy it as well, and doesn’t seek to create a sanitised and fear free world, instead it acknowledges children’s fears, especially their truest and most elemental fear that their parents will be taken from them.
Coraline instantly reminded me of being a young child and the insane boredom of an endless wet weekend when your parents were busy doing dull and, to you, entirely pointless adult stuff and I was actually surprised by how much I started to enjoy it. I think many children would identify with her longing for a sibling or playmate and the way that she lives in an imaginary world. The plot as I understood it was that Coraline’s family had moved to a “magical, if slightly demonic new house” (I thought that was such a lovely description I had to quote it!) in the middle of nowhere and she ends up climbing through a bricked up hole in the wall to escape the boredom. I don’t think I’m going to say anything that can’t be got from the back of the DVD so hopefully no spoilers.  I was pretty creeped by the button eyed parents as it really played on the deep childhood fears of your parents disappearing. The replacements seem to be an improvement but you can tell straight away that something isn’t right. The ideal dinner scene was really clever as Coraline’s dreams become her fears; for example her “other” parents encourage her to play in the rain rather than tell her she can’t which really cleverly demonstrates how the security and safety of the boundaries that all children need has been taken away by her new-found “perfect” mum and dad.
The amazing new bedroom they give her was like the tower in The Secret of Moonacre (starring Dakota Blue Richards, from The Golden Compass and Frankie in E4’s Skins) and her delight was so clear even through her stylised facial expressions that I stopped remembering I was watching a cartoon.
Here some quotes and reviews I thought I would include here. I’m new to the blogging thing so I really hope I’ve acknowledged all my sources adequately as I’m obviously not trying to steal anyone else’s writing!
“A.O. Scott of The New York Times called the film "exquisitely realized" with a "slower pace and a more contemplative tone than the novel. It is certainly exciting, but rather than race through ever noisier set pieces toward a hectic climax in the manner of so much animation aimed at kids, Coraline lingers in an atmosphere that is creepy, wonderfully strange and full of feeling."
David Edelstein said the film is "a bona fide fairy tale" that needed a "touch less entrancement and a touch more story.” I don’t really agree with this because for the age of the target audience the level of plot was about right.
"It’s the biggest, most strange, expressive, peculiar, enormous stop-motion film I think that’s ever been made," Gaiman told "Everything is created, everything is handmade." (Gaiman being the writer of the original book. I am now planning to read this so if anyone has and they want to share their thoughts on it I would love you to leave a comment!)
Anyway, apologies if this is a rambling review as I wrote most of it while I was supposed to be studying. Oops. Please leave any comments or thoughts below as I’m always interested in anyone else’s opinions!
Thanks for reading, Jessica

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