Careful What You Wish For, Coralineby Zoe Henry / 07.05.2009
Coraline is yet another addition to the whack of 3D films being thrust at us. It was damn impressive when that axe came flying at our heads in the 3D version of Beowulf. And it was somewhat thrilling when we were guided down close to where the hot liquid magma lies in the 3D version of Journey to the Centre of the Earth. I’m all for the “wow” factor that comes with these films, if the “wow” factor is actually making me go “wow”. But in the case of Coraline I don’t see the point. Save for a few scenes, the 3D aspect to the first ever stop-motion animation production to be filmed in 3D is completely devoid of “wow”.
This film is another adaptation of the celebrated, yet oft-maligned fantasy writer Neil Gaiman. After the relative celluloid success of his Stardust. Coraline and her parents have just moved into a large Victorian style house, called Pink Palace Apartments. She is a moody and annoying little girl who is relentlessly vying for the attention of her parents: a couple of grumpy writers who specialise in writing gardening manuals and are constantly hunched over their computers. While Coraline is exploring her new surrounds, she meets a dorky but friendly guy named Wybie. He tells her about a deep well and an unsettling story about his grandmother’s twin sister who was stolen from the Pink Palace. One day, in an attempt to occupy herself while her parents ignore her, Coraline walks around the house counting windows and doors.
She finds a little door which she talks her mother into unlocking. To her disappointment, it’s all bricked up, but when she falls asleep that night she follows weird mice in her dreams to the little door where there is now a tunnel leading to an alternate reality. On the other side she finds a life similar to hers, but with brighter colours and fewer cracks. There is her “other” mother and father who shower her with love and affection, but creepily have buttons sewn over their eyelids – a clear sign that something is going to go amiss. She is welcome to stay in this alternate reality forever, as soon as she agrees to lose the ability of opening her eyes and have buttons sewn over her own eyelids. Of course it isn’t long before her dream world begins to unravel and her nightmare is revealed.
The story is simple, though somewhat contrived. The whole “be careful what you wish for” theme seems a little too convenient. And when you think about it, it’s really just another masqueraded version of Alice in Wonderland. There’s even a feline guide.
The visuals really are fantastical though, especially the otherworldly apartments of Coraline’s vaudevillian neighbours’ – Mr. Bobinsky, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible. But it is never clear who this film was made for. It’s slightly too scary for little kids and a little too banal for the average adult. The only folk I can imagine thoroughly enjoying this film are art students and emo kids, who feel that their whole life (like Coraline’s) is working against them.