Yikes, someone needs to tell Teri Hatcher to eat something.

Golden Mug

Animated Film

Theatrical Release Date: 02/06/2009
Director: Henry Selick
Featuring the Voices of: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman, Robert Bailey Jr., Keith David, Ian McShane, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French

Parents usually find themselves forced to choose from a very limited option of cinematic marvels that are appropriate for their kids and may too often rely on the notion that if the film is animated, it’s safe fare. While being branded with the Pixar or Disney logo is generally a safe bet (unless it’s only a distribution arm like with some of Hayao Miyazaki’s works), I want to quickly let all of you moms and dads out there know that unless that bundle of joy is somewhere north of 11 or 12 years old, you might want to lay off on a family outing to see “Coraline”.

To be fair, the marketing doesn’t necessarily scream ‘kids film’ but make no mistake, some of the imagery and subject matter might leave little Mikey or precocious Madison with a case of bad dreams and an increased use of night lights.

The basic premise is that Coraline discovers a doorway to another reality, one in which there are doppelgangers of the world she knows. Her ‘other mother’ wishes to keep her in this new reality and as our young heroine begins to discover the truth of everything, the tone of the film firmly entrenches itself on the darker side of things.

The voice work is handled ably by the cast and while it’s easy to commend Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher for their contributions (justifiably so), I was especially intrigued and excited about Keith David’s take on the cat. There’s a very tangible Cheshire Cat vibe going on and the deep tone to his voice resonated well within the role.

I’ve never read the Neil Gaiman book of the same name that the film is based on – though I’m sure that once Elizabeth Edgemont gets around to seeing this, she can fill me in. However, in knowing of many of Gaiman’s previous works, I’m not surprised by the more macabre and sinister elements that are involved. While I thought it took a little too long to get into the heart of the matter, once the film gets going the pacing is handled well by the material and Henry Selick’s direction goes hand in hand with that.

“Nightmare Before Christmas” fans recognize Selick as the director behind what is more often regarded as a Tim Burton film (since he wrote the poem the film was based on). Here again, Selick has created a fantastical environment for the characters to explore and a big draw for the film is that it is presented in 3D where available.

While the technology is just beginning to be used with the regularity and technical expertise to take advantage of the medium, it’s an easy call to say that “Coraline” is the very best 3D feature film experience I’ve ever seen. Instead of simply using it to throw a few cheap gags at the audience, Selick and company manage to make the film feel like a diorama come to life. All of the elements feel tangible and I never found myself feeling eyestrain or fighting off a headache as has normally been the case over the last few years.

That factor does play into the rating somewhat but the bottom line however is that the subject material isn’t my cup of tea. I was never one of those cool kids who held “The Nightmare Before Christmas” up on a pedestal and while I certainly appreciate the artistry and expertise that went into the project, the film was neither here nor there for me. Still, if you’re a fan of Gaiman and/or Selick’s works, I highly recommend checking out “Coraline” and give it a solid 3 out of 5 (just remember to leave the smaller children at home this time).