February 10, 2009

REVIEW: Coraline: 3D (A-)

Remember this classic scene from Mallrats, or the "Seinfeld" episode where Mr. Pitt stubbornly refuses to walk away from the Magic Eye poster? Like most people, I always found it hilarious to laugh at the people who couldn't relax their eyes and let the image soak in. It was so easy for me to see three dimensions, even back in the 80's when I saw the space opera Captain EO (remember when Michael Jackson acted?) at Walt Disney World and grasped at the stars as I sat dumbfounded in my seat.

Then, somehow, I lost it. Over the course of the last few years I've found myself sitting expressionless in theaters (recently Beowulf, and to a lesser extent, U23D) while people around me "ooh", "ahh", jump back in their chairs and swipe at the air in front of them. Me? I only see the movie now - clear and sharp, but in two dimensions.

Of course the mystery here is how I'm unable to see the third dimension when the ridiculous looking glasses should be doing all the work for me. What's my problem? Evidently I don't know how to operate the glasses. Or I'm a medical marvel.

In any case, I'm always up to try it again, thinking, "Maybe it will work at the next movie"...in this case, Coraline, based on Neil Gaiman's award winning novella, published in 2002.

The good news: most of the time, I experienced three dimensions. And when I did - especially in the last 20 minutes - Coraline was a dizzying delight. It was the creepy, cold, and captivating movie I wish Pan's Labyrinth would have been. Everything clicked perfectly - the seamless stop-motion animation, the splashes of color, and the beautifully haunting musical score by Bruno Coulais.

Why do animated girls and women almost always have blue hair?

You eventually wake up from every dream, however, and Coraline was no different. Although I should say I never really "fell asleep", meaning I couldn't quite surrender myself to the movie. It felt like a nap I kept waking up from, partly because I became restless in the middle third, and partly because I kept fiddling with my 3D glasses to see if Coraline would look the same without them. It's not a great sign that the story failed to engage me, especially since it's a really interesting concept about every kid's wish for a different life.

As such, (and I can't believe I'm actually saying this) I almost wish Coraline would have been a scarier movie. For how frightening it already is for young children, why not go a little further? I say freak the adults out and give the kids a theater experience they'll remember forever. Heck, just give them any theater experience to remember, since this might be the last generation that doesn't watch the majority of their movies at home.

But that's neither here nor there. Despite my minor issues with the 3D and the tone of the story, Coraline is, on balance, a solid movie in the early period of 2009...even an early contender for Best Animated Feature? Maybe that's a little premature with Monsters vs. Aliens (also in 3D), Up, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,
9, Astro Boy and The Princess and the Frog all due out this year. But at this rate "Best 3D Animated Feature" might be added as an Oscar category, and Coraline would have that locked up.

Writing - 10
Acting - N/A
Production - 10
Emotional Impact - 8
Music - 5
Social Significance - 3

Total: 36/40= 90% = A-


  1. I can't wait to see this! Happy to see it receive such a high rating from you.

  2. Well I can't wait to see you actually review it, since I hardly skimmed the surface.

    This might be one that people enjoy depending on what they're looking for. I would say the more you are able to surrender yourself to it the more you'll like it. I got about 75% of the way there, and the rest comes mostly from an appreciation for the amazing animation. That shouldn't be ignored.

  3. "You gots to have blue hair!"

    -- Strong Bad

    (I know that doesn't answer your question, but I couldn't resist.)

  4. I was also underwhelmed by Pan's Labyrinth - especially the fantasy elements. I found the fantasy in Coraline"creepy, cold, and captivating" as well. Funny you should say that it was like a nap you kept waking up from. I felt disengaged by it in a similar way even though, at the same time, I had to acknowledge that what I was seeing was amazing.

  5. Is 3D the most annoying current trend in entertainment? Did it get better in some way from when it came out like 50 years ago? Nightmare Before Christmas was cool enough without 3D and I suspect Coraline would be as well. Why do they have to slap on a gimmick and make me wear uncomfortable paper glasses?

  6. Interesting that you disparage Pan's Labyrinth. I love the fantasy aspects but found the overall aesthetic and also the Spanish Civil War elements disappointing especially since I'm unduly fascinated with that era of history (yeah, I know it was set after the war, but it still falls within range).

  7. Luke, while that doesn't answer my question I can still appreciate it!

    Thanks, hokahey (and for your blogroll add - I'm happy to do the same!). It was actually onlythe fantasy elements in Pan's Labyrinth that underwhelmed me. I felt like we were down in the Labyrinth for 10 minutes, with the rest of the time filled up by the evil dad killing people. Point is, I can hardly remember the little girl, so something's not right - the focus should have been on her exploring this underworld.

    It would be similar to Coraline focusing on the writing troubles of Coraline's parents. Maybe interesting (probably not, actually), but not at all what the movie should be about.

    That being said, I can appreciate what Del Toro was envisioning with Pan's and I consider it a major technical achievement. I just didn't expect it to be a war movie. That actually might be an interesting movie in and of itself - especially if MovieMan says it's an interesting period - but that's not what Pan's should have been.

    Regarding the 3D trend, I agree there's no logical reason for it to be making a comeback now, other than Hollywood's fear that people aren't going to go to the theater anymore (which will be true, soon enough). I just don't know why the 3D assault has been so intense, especially since it has yet to lead to a smashing box office success. I guess Hannah Montana did pretty well and the Jonas Brothers upcoming 3D movie will make money, but Beowulf, Bolt 3D,The Polar Express, Kung Fu Panda (I think it was in 3D?), none of these are absolute must-sees in 3D, right? Until that happens (and I'd say Coraline is the best so far), the idea isn't really going to take off. But Dreamworks Animation remains undeterred. They've announced that not only will Monsters vs. Aliens be 3D, but every single Dreamworks Animation movie will be in 3D from this point on.

    Also, instead of paper glasses you actually get black plastic ones now. And they pinch your ears.

  8. By the way, nice of everyone not to notice that the last two sentences of the review were cut off. Blogger is a total pain. I've amended it, I think.

  9. Hi! I've just been trying to find out if my not-into-3D glasses mate would be okay seeing Coraline without the glasses--or if it's even likely to be playing near us in 3D at all--and came across this. Enjoyed your review! It does sound pretty visually stunning.

    Two random notes:

    I think the inability to see Magic Eye (and similarly, maybe even the increasing trouble with 3D) might come down less to relaxation than to flexibility of the eye; the Magic Eye pictures require slightly crossing your eyes and shifting the depth of your focus at once, and not everyone is actually physically capable of doing that, or of doing it comfortably/well. For one thing, eyes become less flexible with time (most people become more far-sighted as they get older, because their eyes can't contract to view close up with as much agility as they could), and some people have problems adjusting for depth perception from very early on.

    And the blue hair thing (at least with those kinds of very, very dark blues)... I wonder if this is a stand in, a lot of time, for "hair so black it's blue"--distinguishing black-haired characters from one another with the kind of sheen on it--which then gets exaggerated to purple, blue, brown, red, etc. Maybe just to add interest and texture, but also to make characters very easily distinguished?

    Anyway! Thanks for the review, pardon the text block!

  10. Glad you found something helpful, Lulu, and thanks for commenting.

    "eyes become less flexible over time" - maybe that explains my problem! I never got the "just relax" thing, too - I always have to look cross-eyed at those pictures. Maybe I just can't cross my eyes as well as I could 10 years ago. Weird.

    The blue-as-black theory makes a lot of sense, but then I think about Marge Simpson and...well I guess that's about it. Guess my own theory is a little half baked.

  11. The film Coraline 3D was actually wonderful experience for me.I had also taken my kids wih me and they also enjoyed it very much.I myself was excited very much.It is not only for kids but also for grown-ups too who seem to get more excited than the children!if I were asked then I would rate it 4/5.I think its a well written script and all the 3D effects is not overdone.If you ask my opinion then I suggest you to see it if you want to experience something different from the regular action movies.

  12. Hi, Joe - thanks for stopping by and commenting. I'm def in agreement with all you say here - even that 4/5. It's a great movie, just a step from being perfect.

    And you're right on about the 3D - it's not only not overdone, but when it IS used it actually enriches what's happening in the story.

  13. The 3D animation in Coraline 3D was amazing.It was nice to see such kind of film after a long time since childhood.I think that it will be liked more by the adults than kids.I was actually excited to see this movie.The film script-line was fine and the 3D graphics were just perfect.
    Considering the movie's story and its effects i would rate it 4/5.

  14. Uh...yeaaah, Joe - I think I got it, haha...


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