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.
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-