Warning: This review contains spoilers and the thought of someone who thinks about things too much.
Well, I just came back from seeing Coraline, and thought it would be fun to share my thoughts.
I don't really even know where to start. My overall opinion is, well, that this movie is fantastic.
Obviously, the movie is a visual feat above all. I admit that I did not see the movie in 3D, but I'm sure that's just some butter cream frosting on a triple chocolate cake. I have always been amazed with stop motion and a fan of Selick's work. Months ago, I saw an article where the author complained about Coraline being to "sterilized" for stop motion, and I couldn't disagree more. Many points in the film reminded me of blood, sweat, and tears that it's made of. The animation is always very smooth, but still has a feel that is hard for me to explain; twitchy but in a good way. Also, I specifically remember a point where the "camera" is zoomed all the way into Coraline's face. It was possible to see the marks of paint or colored pencil that made the color in her eyes, and it made me feel all good inside.
About the story and the script well..for me, there's a lot to talk about. The dialog struck me first, and reminded me who the movie was technically "made for". It's too bad that all writer's seem to think that kids need everything blatantly spelled out for them or they simply won't understand. I'm pretty sure that if a child sees someone sniff the air and smile, they do not need the person to say "Something smells good". At least, I would assume so. There were some other points that just felt oddly young. The ghost children talking to Coraline through there "eyes" kind of made me feel like I was playing a video game and they were leading me to my next objective.
For someone familiar with the book, there were obvious changes, though not necessarily bad ones. Some scenes were taken out or changed. My friend who was with me was especially upset at that brevity of the "tea party" between Coraline and the rescued ghost children ( I believe her exact words after was "Lamest tea party EVER.") Also, the meeting with the deteriorating Other Father was different, but, while maybe not as creepy as the book version, still effectively unsettling. Speaking of unsettling. The Other Mother. Period. Teri Hatcher was delightfully terrifying and I loved her during the entire transformation.
A big change was the addition of the character, Wybie Lovat. From what I had originally gathered, I figured that he was going to be basically unimportant to the overall story and simply there for comedic relief. Um..yeah, I was pretty wrong. The way he is tied into the story is actually very interesting, and in the end I thought that his inclusion made the movie a good separation from the book. And I have to admit, I really liked the portrayal of the Other Wybie. His ultimate fate was, for me, heartbreaking and I thought it was nice to have more of a theme of the Other Mother's destruction of hope with not only the treatment and destruction of the Other Father. Quick note: Wybie is in desperate need of a chiropractor..or something. He looked like Quasimodo.
Now, about Coraline herself. I knew I was going to be sketchy about her portrayal. Not that Fanning didn't do a nice job, I just felt it was a little hard to connect with Coraline at the beginning of the movie. Her Michigan "accent" seemed really jarring at some points (the word "saddled" seemed particularly painful), though it doesn't really ruin her for me. As the movie progressed, I really did come to really connect with Coraline and root for her. Though, it made me think, how stupid were those other kids? Coraline knew that, no matter what, buttons + eyes= BAD. One of the ghost kids even said, "We LET her sew button in our eyes". ...WHAT?
The best part of the whole night? Listening to parents squirm (Theatre scene anyone) and children giggle in fear.
So yeah, I really really REALLY enjoyed this movie. True, parts were a BIT juvenile, but the overall tone was pleasantly dark and moody. I'm so glad that Coraline started off my 2009 theatrical animation run.
P.S. I'm going to be giving my thoughts on TekkonKinkreet in a few days.