8 Feb 2009 5:18 pm   //   Filed under: Movies, Review

Seeing “Coraline” in 3D

We saw the animated film “Coraline” yesterday at one of the theaters in Times Square that was showing it in 3D. Special glasses required. I can take or leave 3D movies – the gee-whiz factor is offset by the fact that the movie appears darker, and blurrier around the edges, compared to seeing it in 2D.

“Coraline” is similar in style to “Corpse Bride” (co-directed by “Coraline” director Henry Selick and Tim Burton) and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (directed by Burton). These films are beautifully crafted, each one a work of art. I really want to love these movies. But for some reason I find them to be a bit of a let-down. I’ve never been able to pinpoint why.

Do you ever work on a project that involves solving a really hard, interesting problem? And eventually you solve it! But in doing so, you’ve sucked up all the time, energy or budget you need to solve the easier, conventional problems. And so the final product may have been a great expense of creative energy, but it also isn’t as good as you want it to be. I’ve written investigative stories and done online projects that ended up this way. So much good work, so little to show for it.

I think it must be easy for animated movies to fall into this trap. The hard, interesting problem is bringing to life the lifeless. The very act of making “Coraline” is a miracle of patience and hard work. But there are other problems that have to be solved for a movie to be excellent – like story, dialogue and voice acting. In the case of “Coraline,” I should have positively loved a film that includes the vocal talents of John Hodgman and They Might Be Giants (both of Brooklyn, by the way). The children’s book on which the movie is based is supposed to be good. So why do the characters and the story seem so humdrum on the big screen? I think it must have been the script, which somehow doesn’t match the ambition of the animators. But hey, I got a free pair of 3D glasses out of the experience.