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Your June Unrandom Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: Be careful what you wish for.

Preshow Entertainment: None


CORALINE (2009) opens with images that can easily scare the bejudas out of any little kid - a doll being deconstructed, cut and scissored until the stuffing seeps through what used to be a mouth, and button eyes removed by a needle (talk about eyepopping visuals)...and then finally...skinned and restuffed. It's like watching Baby's First Torture Porn.

Coraline Jones (I keep thinking she's named after Addams Family actress Carolyn Jones, which isn't a stretch, when you think about it) is a wise-beyond-her-eleven-years girl (most girls wait till they're 15 before dying their hair blue). In her yellow slicker, she looks like the Morton Salt girl gone goth. She declares she's too old to play with dolls, yet sleeps with a stuffed bear.

Coraline and her family have just moved to Oregon from Michigan, technically a lateral move. It's not hard to keep up with The Joneses. They live in the Pink Palace Apartments, which is a Bates-ian triplex on a hill. Living in the other two apartments; an acrobat named Bobinsky and two aging actresses - Spink and Forcible. Tooling around the hood with his gizmos is Wyborne, a neighbor kid (not much of a neighborhood, really, with just the Pink Palace, Wyborne, and his grandmother who is the landlord). I'm wondering if Wyborne looks like Tim Burton on purpose, as director Henry Selick did both CORPSE BRIDE and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS with Burton.

The Jones' place is a bleak house with muted tones made up of seemingly hundreds of shades of washed out eggshell. The house is a metaphor for Coraline's existence. Her parents, working on a gardening catalog, largely ignore her. It sure seems that Coraline is stuck. Move over Dorothy, you're not the only kid in dire need of an adventure.
Good thing the house has a small, mysterious door which takes Coraline to a parallel universe, one where mom and dad (referred to as Other Mother and Other Father in this universe) pay attention to her and feed her stuff she actually likes, instead of the Real World's chard. And...they are cool. Unless you count the black buttons they have instead of eyes.

The Other World is indeed otherworldly; a world where The Cat can talk and Wyborne cannot, the garden is truly magical, and Spink and Forcible perform an act where they have literal out of body experiences. So will Coraline be tempted by this Other World? Of course, you moron. Otherwise, there's no movie.

But though Coraline is smart, somehow it's other characters that tell her what to do. Like the talking cat, and Spink and Forcible. That's a problem I have. I mean, it's okay for others to occasionally help (remember the Scarecrow?), but even the endgame of Coraline vs. Other Mother is settled by...another character and not Coraline. Also, how they help is just too easy. The mythology seems convenient for the story points, like when Spink and Forcible somehow make a stone from a dish of candy from the year 1921, a stone that will help Coraline find her lost parents.

It seems to me that animated mega-hit CORALINE's debt to preexisting material is so great it just didn't seem to have much originality at all. There. I said it. And I'll probably be hated on for doing so. Yes, it's a beautiful looking movie which may have been even more impressive in 3D, but it never made me feel anything. That said...

The stop motion animation, an art so rare in today's CG jungle, is, without question, CORALINE's strong suit. The renderings, the movements, the details (how did they get those threads to unwind using stop-motion?), the lighting - they're all things of beauty and wonder. Surely a laborious effort made to look effortless. I'm the first to admit I know little about stop-motion, so how they made rolling fog (I believe this was a post effect?) and fire baffles me. The details will astound you, from the moving company employee taking a misstep (even when he doesn't, he's got a bitchin' gait) to the way the keys shift from inertia when Coraline's mom tugs open a drawer. And invisible touches like making Coraline a lefty not only when she writes but when she shakes hands.

CORALINE was first a book written by Neil Gaiman, whose name is a homonym for a command you'd give to a gay fluffer. Gaiman's site has a link to a store that sells jewelry featuring stones that "have the reputation of drawing money and opportunity to the wearer." WTF?? Selick wrote the script from Gaiman's book. There was talk between Selick and crew about making the Real World in CG and the Other World in stop motion, but they didn't see it that way. I do. I thought that would have really worked. But what do I know? Especially about animation.

CORALINE, who is oddly cute, was voiced by Dakota Fanning, who somehow found time between being sexually violated in HOUNDDOG and tongueing Kristen Stewart in THE RUNAWAYS. Actually, I thought all the V.O. actors did a fine job (Teri Hatcher as Mom/Other Mom stands out).

Although I appreciated the effort, CORALINE didn't sweep me away as I felt it could have. I wish it was Coraline who saved the day without all that help. I wish the movie was more original (even characters with button eyes predate this work). I wish I loved CORALINE. But remember, be careful what you wish for...


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