Thursday, February 05, 2009

What Henry Did

The reviews are rolling in, and the overwhelming majority of them get it (88% fresh as of this typing). They get the film, they get what Henry's doing, they get why he did it. But The New York Times CORALINE review by A.O. Scott made me particularly happy. It begins,

There are many scenes and images in “Coraline” that are likely to scare children. This is not a warning but rather a recommendation, since the cultivation of fright can be one of the great pleasures of youthful moviegoing. As long as it doesn’t go too far toward violence or mortal dread, a film that elicits a tingle of unease or a tremor of spookiness can be a tonic to sensibilities dulled by wholesome, anodyne, school-approved entertainments.
Its look and mood may remind adult viewers at various times of the dreamscapes of Tim Burton (with whom Mr. Selick worked on “Nightmare”), Guillermo del Toro and David Lynch. Like those filmmakers Mr. Selick is interested in childhood not as a condition of sentimentalized, passive innocence but rather as an active, seething state of receptivity in which consciousness itself is a site of wondrous, at times unbearable drama.
The governing emotion, at the beginning, is loneliness. A smart, brave girl named Coraline Jones, voiced by Dakota Fanning, has recently moved from Michigan to an apartment in a big pink Victorian house somewhere in Oregon. She is at an age when the inadequacy of her parents starts to become apparent, and Coraline’s stressed-out, self-absorbed mom and dad (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman), who write about gardening, barely look up from their computer screens when she’s in the room. And so, like many a children’s book heroine before her, Coraline sets out to explore her curious surroundings, interweaving the odd details of everyday reality with the bright threads of imagination.
Like the best fantasy writers Mr. Gaiman does not draw too firm a boundary between the actual and the magical, allowing the two realms to shadow and influence each other. Mr. Selick, for his part, is so wantonly inventive and so psychologically astute that even Coraline’s dull domestic reality is tinted with enchantment.

“Coraline” explores the predatory implications of parental love — that other mother is a monster of misplaced maternal instinct — but is grounded in the pluck and common sense of its heroine, who is resilient, ingenious and magically real.
Which made me really proud -- not for me, but for Henry Selick and his amazing team at Laika. They worked for three years on this, making it, moving it, building it. Some of them may not have jobs unless the film works, and Laika does another one. But what they've done is awesome, and people are noticing. And that's a wonderful thing.

Labels: , , , ,