The imagination is allowed to run rampant in Coraline, a spooky and satisfying gorgeous piece of stop-motion animation from Henry Selick, who also directed The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. The amount of work that goes into a project like this is absolutely staggering – the shoot apparently lasted for more than 18 months, with two years of pre-production before that – and the end result is a film that engages the mind’s eye thoroughly. The film provokes near-constant senses of both delight and unease; it’s not hard to imagine most younger children being terrified at this movie, but that dichotomy fits the themes of the film very well.
Coraline (Dakota Fanning) is a rather misunderstood little girl. Her blue hair makes her stand out against the dreary Oregon landscape where her family recently moved to from Michigan, and she has trouble getting her parents to pay attention to her. Her mom (Teri Hatcher) is worn out and haggard, and her dad (John Hodgman) is awkward and unaware.
At the Pink Palace apartments where her family now lives, Coraline finds herself surrounded by unusual characters – Wybie, a talkative boy who Coraline finds endlessly irritating, a pair of near-senile former performers called Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, a crazy circus man named Mr. Bobinsky, and a mysterious cat.
One day, while exploring her new house, Coraline finds a tiny door hidden behind the wallpaper in a spare room, but when she finally gets it open, it’s just a wall of brick on the other side. But at night, it’s a different story, and the door opens to a tunnel, leading her to a very similar house with familiar people who she is told are her “other mother” and “other father.”
Coraline seems to have stumbled upon an ideal world, as her other mother and father pay her a good deal more attention, and everything from the cooking to the gardening to the entertainment is far more grand in this colorful alternate universe.
Much to her disappointment, she wakes up in her own bed despite falling asleep in the other world several nights in a row. But eventually, she gets a chance to stay there forever. Of course, things might not be exactly as they seem.
Coraline is jam-packed with clever, cute and creepy cinematic touches; it’s the kind of film you want to watch twice in a row to catch it all. The story definitely borrows from a wide array of sources, but it’s so superbly executed with brilliant animation and music, it’s hard to consider that much of a flaw at all.
The Blu-ray Disc
Coraline is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The Blu-ray and both versions of the DVD provide viewers with the option of watching the film in 2-D or 3-D with the four included pairs of 3-D glasses. For me, the 2-D version is the way to go. Although the home 3-D viewing works surprisingly well, it drains nearly all the life out of the colorful world created in this film. The 3-D technology included with the Blu-ray set is not the new, improved method now employed in theaters, but the old one red eye, one blue eye pair of glasses. The effect is a disappointing green pallor over the entire film.
In the 2-D version though, this picture shines with superb clarity, sharpness and color definition. In Coraline’s real world, characters’ clothing, such as her yellow slicker, stand out from among the muted color palette of the landscape, while in the alternate world, a circus of reds, blues and purples jump off the screen constantly. Shot entirely digitally, this is a visual presentation that is essentially flawless, and looks fantastic on Blu-ray.
The audio is presented in Dolby DTS-HD, and is perfectly clear, crisp and often, very dynamic. Thunderclaps boom through the woofer, while dialogue and Bruno Coulais’s beautiful score come through the front channel and plenty of ambient sound fills out the mix.
The Coraline Blu-ray comes with a nice selection of special features that provide insight into the painstaking process of making a stop-motion animation film. The highlight is definitely a 30-minute-plus making-of featurette, subdivided into production stages. It uses its time well, devoting just a few minutes to each element, which is ample to provide a few interesting tidbits of information without becoming a behemoth of a feature, too cumbersome to really watch.
Also included are several deleted scenes with introductions by Selick, a featurette on the voice talent and some leftover material from the making-of combined into a short piece called Creepy Coraline. A feature commentary with Selick and Coulais is also included. All of the extras are in high def.
A bonus DVD of the film is also included, and the DVD also carries a digital copy.
The Bottom Line
Coraline is one of the best films to come out this year so far, and it’s a stunner in high def.