Based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, visionary filmmaker Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, brings Coraline, the first-ever stop-motion 3-D film, to life. And now, it's available on DVD.
In Coraline, young Coraline (Dakota Fanning) has recently moved to a horribly dull new town with her neglectful parents who are more interested in their work than in their daughter. Coraline soon finds discovers another world through a small door, much like rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. The new world is a mirror of her own, except it seems perfect – complete with loving, caring parents and a collection of fascinating neighbors who live to entertain Coraline. However, Coraline finds that this "perfect" world has a price… and she's not willing to pay it.
Coraline is a visually stunning masterpiece of a film that is unlike any other children's (and stop-motion) film ever made. Every shot is about building a unique world that feels like an old-school Brothers' Grimm fairy tale (before they were Disney-ized) filled with darkness, adventure, and a life-lesson for children to take away with them. In the case of Coraline, said lesson is to be careful what you wish for.
While the first part of this movie is a little slow, it's essential. These scenes help to lay the groundwork necessary for the final portion of the movie, which closes with a bang. Rather than filling every moment with action and rushing through the plot like many modern children's movies, Coraline takes the time to build an eerie, beautiful world filled with a subtlety that make the film shine. While this approach can make some children fidgety, it's an unmistakable signature of the movie and makes it leap off the screen and pull the audience in.
Perhaps this is why the director decided to shoot the movie in 3D. Coraline is the first stop-motion film shot in 3D, and this DVD includes both the 3D and 2D versions of the film along with four sets of 3D glasses. The 3D aspect of this movie is fun and adds a dimension to it, but at times feels like a gimmick to pull in viewers who are not traditionally fans of stop-motion animation. While the 3D doesn't detract from the film, it doesn't necessarily seem to add much either. The 2D version has the same impact, and is more comfortable to watch since viewers don't have to mess with the glasses.
Coraline features a stellar voice cast that rise to play the changes in their characters perfectly. Teri Hatcher (Mother/Other Mother) does a phenomenal job with the many different facets of her character(s) and makes viewers shiver with every blood-chilling laugh. Ian McShane (Bobinsky), though, completely steals the show with his wild, eccentric Russian accent that is completely over-the-top and hilarious.
Along with the voice talents, Bruno Coulais' spellbinding score captures the tone and the spirit of the film perfectly. The music is childish and innocent, yet haunting and underlined by an eerie sense that something isn't right. From the very first note to the last, Coulais' music is filled with astonishing beauty and emotion that completes the world of Coraline.
The bonus features in this DVD set are wonderful. They include deleted scenes, director's commentary, a very thorough collection of "making of" featurettes, and interviews with voice actors Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, and others.
The "making of" featurettes are both entertaining and informative. They cover every aspect of the film, from sets and animation to puppets and costumes. These featurettes highlight all of the hard work, time, care, and craftsmanship that went into the making of this film. It certainly helps viewers gain a greater appreciation for the film when they see the dedication of the animators and staff who made the world of Coraline come to life.
Though perhaps geared to some extent towards children, it is somewhat difficult to think of Coraline exclusively as a children's movie. The darkness and the scary elements may frighten most small children and perhaps even cause them to develop phobias involving dolls and buttons, but older audiences will appreciate the film's unique approach and its appeal to viewers of all ages.
While some may be bothered by the pacing, Coraline is a visual treat and stunning piece of film making that's destined to become a classic.
Check out the official Coraline channel on YouTube here.