Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Other Home, Sweet Home

As a kid, did you ever feel like escaping?

Well I did. For a whole five hours. I was six years old and had my rucksack packed with food and my piggy bank. I only got as far as the backyard before I pitched my tent out under the stars (And when I say "I", I mean of course, my father).

I tried to sleep but the moon cast scary shadows. Dogs in the distance howled and tree branches leered towards me, scraping the tent like fingers down a chalkboard. I'm not sure how quick I ran back into the house but I was pretty thankful I had a bed to hide under!

It’s fair to say that most people, at sometime in their lives, will feel like escaping the daily grind or play victim to fantasizing themselves in their own oasis.
It’s no different for Coraline Jones.

We find this grouchy, blue haired girl (voiced by Dakota Fanning) stubbornly avoiding unpacking her belongings into the new (well, ancient) home that she has moved into, along with her parents who work obsessively, striving to start their own business. Consumed in their work, it has left them distanced from their only child, oblivious to Coraline’s dilemma of being homesick, and, sick of her home.

Having no friends, missing her old ones, being cooped up inside from the miserable rain and sitting down to her dad’s vegetable slop everynight is enough to make anyone want to get on their hands and knees and follow a tiny, trumpet playing mouse through a secret door into a glittering parallel universe!

On the “Other” side, Coraline ventures into a world that is a replica of her own – but better! The weather is beautiful, the garden is blossoming, her annoying crooked necked neighbour Wybie is a mute and then there’s crazy, old Mr. B, the acrobatic Russian with a disturbing festish for cheese, who has transformed his apartment into a magical circus complete with cotton candy cannons.

If it wasn’t for the overly-charming-but-not-quite-right Other Mother (voiced by Teri Hatcher), children would think Coraline had hit the jackpot and would also begin to plot their own escapes by eagerly tearing off the wallpaper to reveal secret doors, or just running full pelt at a brick wall (Just like Platform 9 ¾, but less Harry and more Muggle).

And like any fable of magical, mysterious adventures ('Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' and 'Alice in Wonderland' spring to mind), all is a little bit dark and twisted under the wondrous exteriors. You see (ha, pun), the Other Mother just wants one teensy thing of Coraline’s; her eyes. She bargains with Coraline, promising to sew buttons in their place - a small favour to pay for gifts, daily banquets and endless love and attention. An eye for an eye (or button in this case).

Coraline has been described as too frightening for children and I can see why. As the Other Mother reveals her sinister, twisted side, desperate to own Coralines soul, she gradually transforms from a warm, sophisticated lady into a looming creature, piercing like a praying mantis with menacing teeth and razor sharp talons.

It’s here where the stop-motion animation is the films highest achievement and has been compared to Tim Burton’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’. While his name does not appear in the credits, it is speculated that he helped design the characters and the ‘overall’ gothic look of the film. Still, nothing’s set in stone.

Icecubes floating in lemonade, swirling fog, facial expressions, steam from a frypan, shadows and swollen heart shaped flowers are finer details executed in a way that mirrors real life and will have you gasping in your seat.

The score used in this film was quite striking also. Instead of the extravagant, cheesy singing and dancing hoopla churned out for all standard childrens films, Coraline features music that is delicate, haunting and ‘other’ worldly. (See what I did there?)

But then, this is no standard children’s film!
Rating: 4/5


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