Coraline Review

coraline

Wow! I was dazzled by Coraline, the stop-motion feature film debut of Portland’s own Laika Studios. The film is a vivid 100 minutes of imagination and craftsmanship, and I highly recommend it.

Full disclosure: I love stop-motion animation. I grew up watching Claymation Christmas and Easter specials, Nightmare Before Christmas and, perhaps most beloved to me, Wallace & Gromit. While Pixar remains my favorite contemporary animation studio, they are the exception, not the rule—give me a good stop-motion flick over CGI any day of the week. I love the warmth and spontaneity of it, that spectacular combination of enthralling dimensionality coupled with a sense of humanity akin to stylized 2-D work.

Unfortunately, I’ve been let down by the last few stop-motion features I’ve seen. While Chicken Run and the Wallace & Gromit movie were entertaining, they fell short of the magic established in Nick Park’s shorter films. The Corpse Bride was strangely disjointed and shallow, especially in comparison to Tim Burton’s earlier work. My hope is that this film will inspire studios to reach for a new level of excellence and polish; they’ve certainly set the bar.

The storyline will appeal to Burton fans, with an iconoclastic lead, quirky character designs and twisted-gray sets. That being said, Laika have successfully carved their own niche. I’ve never seen characters as expressive and detailed in a stop-motion feature (even their clothes are stunning) and the sets, full of detail and emotion themselves, are perhaps even more impressive. The pace of the film is rather leisurely in comparison to most contemporary animation, which allows the viewer to really absorb the depth of these scenes.

I’d elaborate on specific points of the film I found impressive but I’d hate to give anything away. In my opinion this is the best stop-motion movie since Nightmare Before Christmas and the best feature since Wall-E. Go see it!

Responses

matt says

So, you saw it in 3D – what was that like? I remember being vaguely unimpressed the last time I saw a film at a theater in ‘3D’.

Responded

Tyler Sticka says

I liked it! I don’t believe it’s essential to the viewing experience, but save for a couple shots that felt a little like “ooh, we’re doing 3-D,” It seemed to compliment the already dimensional style of the picture. It certainly felt superior to stereoscopic after-the-fact, like when Nightmare Before Christmas was re-released.

Overall, I’d say it was just fine and a fun viewing experience, but the film shines by itself.

Responded

Bryan says

Nice review! I am a huge Nightmare Before Christmas AND Neil Gaiman fan. I Coraline in 3D last Saturday and it was amazing! The Real3D can be so cool. I saw Nightmare a couple years ago in 3D and was blown away (even though I’ve seen that movie a million times). It was cool to have the movie made fresh by adding a component to the experience. Definitely not my parents’ 3D. LAIKA did a great job. I hope they get another feature film gig soon.

Responded

Tyler Sticka says

According to Wikipedia, it had a $16.8 million opening weekend, which is better than what Wallace & Gromit did. My hopes are high for another Laika feature.

Responded

Peter Wooley says

Hearing that it was great from others was one thing, but now Kara and I will be have to see this—soon. Strangely enough, I’m really interested to see the clothes. The way you talked about this flick reminds me completely of how you describe Pixar’s. Thanks for the details!

Responded

Mal Pal says

Totally agree! I do have one word to describe the film; CHRONIC.

Responded

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