Coraline is the little 3-D film that could. Although it wasn’t any kind of a tentpole event, it quietly made almost $115 million in its theatrical run. Not bad for a 3-D stop-action animation film. The story, about a little girl who discovers an alternate world where her Other Parents dote on her – as opposed to her real parents, who don’t seem to care – is one of author Neil Gaiman’s most loved stories. Although it underwent several changes in its journey to film, Gaiman heartily approved of the film version which really does capture the feel of the book beautifully.
This 2-Disc Collector’s Edition of Coraline includes both 2-D and 3-D versions – though the 3-D is the kind with the glasses with the green and red lenses. When they [-whoever they may be] figure out how to transfer modern 3-D to DVD, I’ll be one happy camper. At least the DVD includes four pairs of glasses…
When it was announced that Henry Selick was developing Nail Gaiman’s wonderful novel Coraline for film, it was probably not something that registered with most moviegoers. If they recognized the name at all, it was most likely from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – even Burton claims that all he contributed was the basic plot, lead character and a few hasty sketches. Selick did all the heavy lifting.
Coraline is a completely different story. Selick developed the film, both writing the screenplay and directing the film. Here, Selick’s genius becomes clear. He adds a character – the odd little boy named Wybie [voiced by Robert Bailey Jr.] – to add to the stakes, and provide a contrasting character for Coraline [Dakota Fanning]. He also makes a few other tweaks that give the film even more depth than that usually given by stop motion animation. Then he adds really excellent 3-D – not as a gimmick, though there are places where an action does pop toward the audience – but as a means of making Coraline’s unique world just that little bit more unsettling.
The story of Coraline is one of misunderstandings: Coraline’s parents [John Hodgman, Teri Hatcher] seem disconnected from her, disinterested – though they are really trying to make a deadline on a freelance job, producing a catalogue for a client; when Coraline finds her other parents, she really thinks they are genuinely interested in her – though she is merely a diversion for them [especially her Other Mother]; Coraline doesn’t understand Wybie, either, thinking him a pest when he’s really a very lonely boy who has no idea about how to make friends.
Her adventures in both worlds involve other minor players who contribute to the mood: Miss pink [Dawn French] and Miss Forcible [Jennifer Saunders] who appear to have been very naughty in their professional careers, and Mr. Bobinski [Ian McShane], who is an aging Russian acrobat who is trying to train mice as circus performers. These characters give the film world a little extra bite and reality.
Then there’s the cat [Keith David], who is the same in both worlds but can talk in the Other World. Gaiman does a smart-ass cat to perfection and Selick captures him just as well in the film [and doesn’t a good fantasy require a smart-ass cat?].
After taking in the boring for 113 minutes/exciting for 5 minutes so-called thriller, The International, it’s my firm recommendation that Coraline is the best film available for the smart movie buff this weekend, acing out the engaging Confessions of a Shopaholic by a nose.
Tim Burton is a genius. That’s been made apparent by films like Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood, among others. He might not have directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, but it comes from his story and all the major design work, a goodly chunk of the song lyrics and the story are his – and Henry Selick does a marvelous job of bringing them to life.
The story – about how Jack Skellington, Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, gets bored with his life and decides to try his hand at Christmas – is bizarre, but only in the best of ways. It’s a holiday mashup, with Jack having “Sandy Claws” kidnapped so that he can deliver Christmas presents [and his idea of cool prezzies is certainly not anyone else’s. It’s a funny, scary and occasional poignant film that accepts the premise that kids like to be a bit scared now and then [and that stories fro kids do not have to be all sweet and nice…].
This new release comes in a box that features a 3-D plastic bust of Jack, which looks amazing. There is also a third disc which contains the digital copy for download to your computer or portable viewing device. Other features include: Commentary by Burton, Selik and composer Danny Elfman; What’s This? Jack’s Haunted Mansion Holiday Tour with Actual Narration, plus an optional Trivia Track, and Off Track – a look at how the Tour was adapted for Jack; Tim Burton’s Original Poem, read by Christopher Lee; The Making of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas; Disc Two: The Uncut Version of Frankenweenie [with new intro by Burton]; Burton’s first animated short, Vincent; Deleted Scenes [Deleted Storyboard Sequences and Deleted Animated Scenes – all with intros by Burton]; The worlds of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – Halloweentown, Christmastown, The Real World; Storyboard-to-Film Comparison; Posters; Teaser Trailer, and Theatrical Trailer.