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Capone Says Stop-Motion Animation has a New First Lady--and Her Name is CORALINE!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here. I've never read the Neil Gaiman novel that inspired director-adapter Henry Selick to create this magnificent work of stop-motion animated art, and frankly I may never want to. I certainly have nothing against Mr. Gaiman's writing, but Selick has done such a complete and fulfilling rendition of the world inhabited by young Coraline Jones that my heart and imagination are stuffed to capacity. Selick has wowed up in the past with such film miracles as THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH. He's even played God for Wes Anderson, who charged Selick with inventing new species of undersea life for THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZIZOU. And who better to literally invent life forms. He has promoted and elevated the art of stop-motion filmmaking to such a degree, I can't imagine studios not taking a step back from so much CG animation and try having this level of patience with the creative process. In every conceivable way, CORALINE is a celebration of the riches and beauty of all things handmade. Not only is everything we see on screen made by hand, but the story itself is about creating a world by hand. But I also adore CORALINE because it celebrates the role of fear in a child's life. As much as parents try to protect their offspring from all things dangerous, kids will always find something to be scared about, so why not throw them in the deep end of this thrill that featured all manner of perilous elements, including sharp objects--some aimed right at your eye (did I mention that if you see this film in anything other than 3-D, you're missing three-quarters of the film?)--evil creatures, giant bugs that look like furniture, ghost children, dead animals, and loads of other devices aimed at freaking out kids and adults alike. The blue-haired Coraline is voiced with rebellious girlishness by Dakota Fanning, who may seem like an obvious choice, but she's fantastic here. And the worst thing that could happen to a child her age has happened--she's bored. Her parents (John "I'm a PC" Hodgman and Teri Hatcher, who might do the best work of anyone in the film) are co-authoring a gardening book, and are on a tight deadline, leaving them no time to entertain their only child. While exploring the world around their new home, Coraline meets Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr.), an inventive little brat who, by default, becomes Coraline's best friend. He gives her a rag doll with buttons for eyes that bears an almost scary likeness to Coraline. In an effort to kill time, Coraline also meets her new neighbors, including a pair of elderly former actresses Misses Sprink and Forcible (an appropriately teamed Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French), who have a brood of terriers (both living and dead) living with them. She also films amusement with an upstairs neighbor, the acrobatic Mr. Bobinsky ("Deadwood's" Ian McShane), who is in the process of training a group of jumping mice for a special kind of circus act. One night, Coraline discovers a small door behind some furniture. Although during the day with her mother watching, the door had only bricks behind it, at night, the door opens to a long tunnel leading to, well, a version of the house she already lives in. Only in this Other World, everything is exactly how Coraline would like her life to be. Her parents are attentive to her every need and whim, the neighbors are far more entertaining, and Wybie is rendered speechless. But eventually the price for all this perfection reveals itself, and if you've seen even one commercial or trailer for the film, you know what that is. To go into too much more detail about the plot of CORALINE would be to spoil the exciting process of discovery that Selick has in store for you. There are healthy doses on insanity, especially when it comes to Coraline's Other Father. This is not to say that her Other Mother is much better, but the less said about what happens to her character the better. And then there's the mysterious black cat (voiced by velvet-throated Keith David), who seems to have the ability to travel between the real and Other World as easily as our heroine. If I had to pick a character whose likeness I'd like on my shelf, I'd pick the Cat; he's a badass. There's both a sparkling innocence and a terrifying underbelly to CORALINE, and I love how Selick underscores both. The Other World is lush, colorful and so very alive, while the real world is dreary, dirty and rundown. It isn't hard to imagine any child choosing fantasy over reality, like Alice going through the Looking Glass or black-and-white Dorothy landing in Technicolor Oz. We know it's not a safe place, but that isn't going to stop us from having fun with it for a while. The final third of the movie is as suspenseful as just about anything I've seen in the animated world. What I admired so much about CORALINE is that it's about a resourceful, intelligent, fearless female character that I honestly believe young girls can admire, despite her occasional lapses into disobedience. Not to come off like I have some grand feminist agenda, but Coraline stands as one of the great animated ladies in history, and she manages to be so without being a princess, needing a man (unless you count a male cat) to save her, or even having much in the way of fashion sense. The film is a glorious look into an utterly original world in which things made my hand are both cherished and feared (as they should be), and brains count for something. I can't think of a better combination. We're a little over a month into the year, and I've already found my first candidate for one of the best films of 2009. -- Capone

Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 6, 2009, 3:25 p.m. CST

    Can't Wait

    by MattDomville

    Should be very, very awesome.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 3:26 p.m. CST

    wow dude

    by ArcadianDS


  • Feb. 6, 2009, 3:27 p.m. CST


    by mikegator

    Sounds like this movie is worth checking out.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 3:28 p.m. CST

    Great Review, Capone

    by DKT

    Really looking forward to seeing this. Also really looking forward to when my daughter is old enough to see this!

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 3:33 p.m. CST


    by Get_Me_An_18-Man_Fire_Team_In_12_Hours

    Well that's just fucking GREAT.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 3:44 p.m. CST

    Role models

    by Toonol

    It's true that most characters in children's films are characters you would never want your children to emulate. I'm glad to see this is an exception.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 3:53 p.m. CST

    not that I want my daughter to age more quickly

    by oisin5199

    but yeah, I wish she was just a little older (she's turning 4 on Monday). She's been fascinated by the commercials, but I know she's way too young for this, especially since she thinks parts of Little Mermaid are too scary. And so far, Kung Fu Panda is the only film she's seen in the theatre. But her mother and I will certainly see it in the theatre and get it on dvd so that she can see it when she's ready. Oh yeah, and I'm a huge Neil Gaiman fan.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 4:14 p.m. CST

    Glad to hear it.

    by noncents

    I'm crossing my fingers.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 4:17 p.m. CST

    I agree with everything except the 3D comment

    by Freakemovie

    I saw it in 3D and spent the whole time wanting to take the glasses off because they make the screen darker. The picture quality is nice and everything, but it would be exactly as effective in 2D -- our brains have been trained so much to accept 2D as "reality" in movies that they fill in the extra dimension automatically.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 4:36 p.m. CST

    I don't know...

    by wampa 1

    ...but it sure smells good!

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 4:39 p.m. CST

    Loved "Nightmare"...

    by Jonas Grumpy

    ...but hated "James & the Giant Peach." The book was far better, and I don't know why the filmmakers strayed so far from it.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 4:49 p.m. CST


    by frozen01

    I couldn't agree more. Roald Dahl was my favorite author when I was growing up, and James and the Giant Peach was my first foray into his world. The movie was awful.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 5 p.m. CST

    Darker screen

    by sirlamorak

    Freakemovie all 3d movies require a brighter bulb in the projector, perhaps the movie theater didn't put one in when they got this movie. I am quite excited to take my daughter this weekend as Nightmare is one of our favorites

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 5:33 p.m. CST

    Rushed Elements

    by MediaNerd

    The middle of the movie is indeed brilliant, but I felt the opening and the ending felt very rushed. The opening jumps into an adventure with no sense of reason why, and the end just felt like a classic video game with characters cheering you onto the next level. Definitely a strong movie, but it actually needs a slightly longer running time.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 5:49 p.m. CST

    I want to see this, but too much swooning confuses me

    by stooopider

    I get confused when the reviewers love turds like 'twilight' and she's just 'not that into your porn' or whatever it's calledthen tell us a clearly awesome movie is awesome. I need an 'awesome movie' meter or something to gauge it against. Is it 'Twilight' awesome or really awesome?

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 6:06 p.m. CST

    So, I guess AICN does one big "swoon" for Corraline?

    by finky089

    Not that I think it DOESN'T look interesting, just funny to see a bunch of "swooning" reviews of it posted so quickly. <p> Oh course, Harry "swoons" for alot that has been not so wonderful, too...

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 6:23 p.m. CST

    'Swooning' reviews

    by Hamtaro Hentai

    I just saw it in 3D with my 6-year-old niece, and let me tell you, the site's reviews are spot-on. The niece was a bit spooked at some parts, but when we came out she had a barrage of questions. When I dropped her off, she was still thinking and talking about it, as am I. One warning, she is mature at 6, and she was scared at parts. I'd say that's probably around the cutoff age for kids. During the second half she was on my lap pretty much the whole time. But the movie was incredible, and a must-see in 3D, get to it before that accursed NSYNC 3D movie (or whoever the fuck they are) takes over the 3D theaters.

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 6:24 p.m. CST

    Another Warning

    by Hamtaro Hentai

    AVOID SPOILERS! (Unless you've read the book that is, which I plan to)

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 6:50 p.m. CST

    For once I agree

    by Eats_sandwich_gets_laid.

    <p>With 100% of the AICN staff. This movie was AMAZING. I first read the book about four years ago (and have read it a few times since--it's a quick read) and as such I was really looking forward to this. I went into it wanting to marvel at the meticulous detail laid out in front of me, but the movie was so well suited for 3d that after the opening credits I stopped trying to be amazed by the tiny clothes and props and fell deeply into a story I already knew forward and backward.</p>

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 7:19 p.m. CST

    I really want to see this

    by Silverglade

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 8:38 p.m. CST

    Sorry, but ...

    by berserkrl

    for me, nothing I've seen from this film compares visually to P. Craig Russell's definitive graphic adaptation:

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 9 p.m. CST


    by frank cotton

    CORPSE BRIDE and MIRRORMASK at the theater, won't miss this one, 3D or not. good to know that stop-motion still lives

  • Feb. 6, 2009, 11:50 p.m. CST

    I have to disagree berserkl....

    by bandus

    I have read the original story and also the P. Craig Russell adaptation. I am going to say that I love what they have done with this movie. The world and characters are amazing. Henry Selick stays true to the book but adds some of his magic to this. I really hope that this movie does well because it would be a shame if this is missed. I think you should give this a chance I don't think you will be disappointed.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 12:10 a.m. CST

    Just got back from the theater...

    by Kirbymanly

    That film was amazing. Although I have to disagree with Capone that the film would be missed by 3/4 if not seen in 3-D. That actually serves as an injustice to it. Though, the 3-D aspect of it should not be missed. Worst part about the experience though was that some dunce was yapping, at the top of her lungs on her cell during the opening credits. I was so baffled by this I couldn't say anything at first. I almost wanted to see how long this girl would go on for. On top of that, I was shocked that no one else in the packed theater said anything to her. She was talking like she was standing next to train and the person on the other line could barely hear her. Finally I said, "Excuse me". She keeps talking. At that point, I'd HAD it. "Hey, stop talking on your damn phone!" She then had the nerve to turn to me and say, "At least you could've asked me nicely." Almost wanting to laugh at the stupidity, I didn't. "Either hang up that phone or I'm going to shove it up your ass!" I felt bad because there were kids in the audience but she shut up. At least I didn't pull I gun. :)

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 12:13 a.m. CST


    by berserkrl

    Oh, don't worry, I'm definitely going to see it. But the shift from Gaiman's deadpan British Coraline to this movie's spastic American Coraline does worry me.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 1:25 a.m. CST

    frank cotton

    by Dingbatty

    MirrorMask was gorgeous on the big screen, but I imagine on a nice enough set, it would be good at home.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 1:52 a.m. CST

    Caught it tonight

    by Toonol

    And it's very good. I don't know if it'll end up on my top ten list for the year, but it's definitely one of the _good_ films, the type we should all hope more gets made of.<p> This was my first 3d movie in many years.... and man, the technology has arrived. Do all the realD movies look this good?

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 2:21 a.m. CST


    by gotilk

    All the realD projections I've seen have been phenomenal. A big leap forward for 3d.


  • Feb. 7, 2009, 3:53 a.m. CST

    saw this tonight in a packed tehater full of kids

    by logicalnoise01

    and loved every 3d eye fucking moment of it. BTW several kids were literally crying in fear of the final form of the villian. The fact that a PG movie can do that in this day and age is awesome.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 3:56 a.m. CST


    by logicalnoise01

    my bloody valentine almost became annoying with teh amount of over blurring. WIth realD you get more depth the closer you are to an object and in MBV3d teh directors over did it and made what ever's in frame in really sharp focus and everythinge sle(even just 5 feet in the background) extremely blurry. But I've seen coraline and beowulf in 3d as well. Coraline suffers a bit of staggering framerate since it's stop motion at 24 fps being played at 120 fps which just makes for some weird motion at times.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 4:51 a.m. CST


    by Kirbymanly

    That's what is missing in kids films today. They (and their mind- mush parents) have become so formatted by the shit that has been put out by Hollywood today, and the two decades before, that they believe that everything is hunky-dory and people falling and hurting themselves is funny. Room for brilliance within a dry, stop-motion, honestly scary film has left the building and will be perminately on hiatus until Hollywood continues to put out films where kids are in pure, sincere danger.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 6:55 a.m. CST


    by Hamtaro Hentai

    Not punching her in the face was asking her nicely. I'm sorry this sublime cinema experience was somewhat ruined for you. I guess I was lucky, there were many kids in the audience, they (including my niece) talked a lot during the 3-D previews, but once Coraline got going everyone shut the hell up.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 7:04 a.m. CST

    you are still a kid at heart

    by Rupee88

    I saw this yesterday with a friend and it was entertaining for a kiddie movie, but still very much on that was visually impressive but the story was basic with no subtext or much of anything interesting.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 7:25 a.m. CST


    by Hamtaro Hentai

    Everyone's opinion is valid. That being said, you are wrong.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 9 a.m. CST

    I will ignore this.

    by malificus

    I could have bet a ball that every reviewer here would just ADORE this movie and of course they all do and it just makes me not want to see this movie EVER. I seriously believe you could have a two-hour stop motion film of a turd slowly pushing it's way out of a sphincter and fanboys would love it. Ugghhhhhhhh.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 10:31 a.m. CST


    by logicalnoise01

    or you hate life.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 12:57 p.m. CST

    Or maybe just you

    by malificus

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 1:45 p.m. CST


    by Hamtaro Hentai

    Nobody cares. Enjoy your life.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 3:52 p.m. CST

    I enjoy it plenty, at YOUR expense

    by malificus

    Obviously YOU care enough to reply, so your post makes you stupid in addition to a butt-inski.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 5:14 p.m. CST


    by maxwell's hammer

    ...would only enjoy this movie if everybody hated it, and HE were the only one who liked it, and he could lord it over all of us and tell us how stupid we all are. When everybody likes it, it just isn't fun for him.

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 5:47 p.m. CST

    Lets all ignore Malificus

    by stooopider

    and see if he goes mental

  • Feb. 7, 2009, 11:38 p.m. CST

    Keith David????

    by Series7

    Why was not his name plastered all over this film? He is the greatest actor living or dead, hands down. Name one bad thing he has ever done? Besides the Navy commercials and getting some paychecks here and there (All About Steve/Delta Farce). He's pretty much flawless.

  • Feb. 8, 2009, 2:19 a.m. CST

    Keith David

    by Hamtaro Hentai

    I don't know if he's the best actor ever, he is indeed great but that's a very strong statement. BTW, you should see Men At Work, with Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez as garbage men, and Keith plays their very crazy boss. <p> Why is it that black men have the best voices? Keith David, James Earl Jones... Dammit, I'm a white guy and I want a cool voice too! God is a racist.

  • Feb. 8, 2009, 8:50 a.m. CST

    But was Keith David The Thing?

    by half vader

    that's the important question...

  • Feb. 8, 2009, 8:43 p.m. CST

    Like I said: Slow Mo turding...

    by malificus

  • Feb. 8, 2009, 8:43 p.m. CST

    CLAP you pigs!!

    by malificus