Posted By: Nat Murphy on February 10, 2009 - 10:00 PM
What isn’t there is both the biggest surprise and the best treat about the movie Coraline. Going in I expected the same manic style from Henry Selick, the director of Monkeybone, James and the Giant Peach, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, but what I got instead was pure poetry. The pace was slow and controlled, and the tone was wonderfully eerie. It was art without all the big selling points of popular entertainment. To be perfectly honest, I felt like I was watching a small little art-house film, and the music followed suit... not in a bad way, but in the best way possible. I could feel some people in the audience grow restless as Coraline’s benign adventures started, but that’s what the director was banking on. He’s lulling people into this dreary day-to-day life that all of us are stuck in. Bruno Coulais’ score is barely audible at times, but is every bit effective in giving the early part of the film a second layer - the better scores always do. Mesmerizing at moments, I was hypnotized by the combination of 3D effects and music in a way that kept my eyes glued to the screen and ears keenly attentive, so, when we reach the loud moments of the “other” world, I had my senses stirred and unprepared. The scores main theme is very nursery rhyme in nature, but dark and twisted. Similar in tone to the Lizzie Borden (“30 Whacks”) playground song, it taunts more than it comforts. The original They Might Be Giants song in the film comes along out-of-the-blue and signals that something isn’t right even though it’s the happiest damn thing heard yet. The spooky nature of the restrained score at the opening only heightens the frights to come when things are truly unleashed. I was entertained, but even more so, I was inspired. Instead of looking for inspiration in the hyperactive work of Tim Burton’s later style, this one harkened back to Burton’s short film Vincent - the alienation of youth; of wanting to be yourself and learning to be careful for what you wish for. It wasn't perfect, but few works of art are - they sit there and wait for the viewer to add it's meaning.
What Selick and company have done with Neil Gaiman’s book (that I hadn’t read going in) was to make a film for kids that striped away ANY condescension - even with the music.