I have film guilt: I wanted to enjoy Coraline more than I actually did. I liked the book and was looking forward to seeing this in the cinema, especially in 3D. However, although the film is technically excellent and a good adaptation, I didn’t have fun while watching the film. Does that make me a bad person?
Coraline (Dakota Fanning) is the daughter of two writers who ignore her and her adventurous streak, and are terrible cooks. Having moved to new accommodation – with eccentric neighbours Mrs Spink and Mrs Forcible (two retired burlesque actress, voiced by Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French) and a gymnastic Russian called Mr Bobinsky (Ian McShane) – she discovers a small door that has been bricked up on the other side. When she goes through the door, she finds another world, and her other parents – they are fun and caring and pay attention to her and give her lovely food and a lovely room. Except for having buttons for eyes, they would be perfect. Until Coraline’s other mother (Teri Hatcher) tells Coraline that, if she wants to stay, she has to sew buttons in her eyes as well.
The film is stunning to look at – Henry Selick’s stop-motion animation is a delight; the detail, the imagination, the movement, the character, the exquisiteness make for a visual treat. Even the extra bits of CGI that are used to assist in the dazzle don’t detract from the spectacle. The attention to detail is even more impressive when you consider that it has been done for 3D, which involves doing everything twice to give the illusion of 3D. The immersive texture to the film is impressive and there are some lovely 3D touches but the film doesn’t really need to be 3D – stop-motion animation has always seemed more immersive anyway, and there is nothing in particular that requires it.
The story is creepy and charming, and the fact that a film has been made with a strong female character in the lead, showing determination and resourcefulness and heroism, is great. But the film itself is slow – I feel such an ungrateful wretch, some sort of attention-deficit child – and lacks much in the way of big laughs or stand-out moments. The cinema had some kids in there and they weren’t captivated by it – like the rest of the audience, they were quiet and even popped out halfway, presumably for the toilet, because their interest wasn’t being kept. The film is adorable and scary and an amazing feat, it’s just not amazing.