Blu-ray Disc Review: "Coraline"

Universal
Movie •••• 2-D Picture ••••½ 3-D Picture •••½ Sound •••• Extras •••½

Call me crazy, but I couldn't help seeing Coraline as an indictment of capitalism. I'm referring to the part of capitalism that, with its eye-popping advertising, promises everything you thought would make you happy but actually offers a mostly gray, overworked existence in which you're a slave to the computer, you have no time for your family, and your soul is not your own.

Crazy, maybe. But when you also consider how the hero of The Incredibles is encouraged to not be all that he can be and to just accept the drudgery of the office, and when you recall that conformity is the only option sold to the people of the giant spaceship Axiom in WALL•E, then maybe it all says less about my sanity than about the daily doings of animators.

No slouch of an animator he, director Henry Selick employs the same striking stop-motion process for Coraline that he used for 1993's already-classic The Nightmare Before Christmas. And this time, he ups the ante with 3-D photography. But if you're looking for beautiful high-def visuals on this Blu-ray Disc, without any distractions, watch the 2-D version. Here, the differing images of idealized life and everyday living are conveyed nearly perfectly. In the ordinary world, there's a subtle gradation of muted tones set off by the richer ones of Coraline herself, with her blue hair, orange PJs, and yellow raincoat. In the alternative reality, colors are bright, shiny, and saturated - at times, even garishly so. With all images, there's impressive detail in hair, clothing, and backgrounds. Landscapes are deep, and figures are rounded and solid.

By contrast, the 3-D version is hardly a high-def experience. In fact, as if downgrading to the old Two-Color Technicolor, it tends to reduce tones to a mauve/green mushiness. That said, my star rating of the 3-D picture is improved greatly by Selick's use of the technology's space; the motion and dimensionality of Coraline, compared with that of other 3-D films, is superior. As the camera takes you through layered gardens, a theater with row upon row of seats, and a cobweb-filled corridor, you do get the feeling that you're moving through real space. It's wonderful - not merely in your face but tricking you to eventually accept the images as navigable. Four pairs of 3-D glasses are provided.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is very clear in dialogue, the score of Bruno Coulais, and the unsettling songs by They Might Be Giants. At first, the mix is restrained, but by the time Coraline is trapped in the creepy world, the music and effects completely surround you.

Eight minutes of deleted scenes don't add much, even if, like all the other visual extras here, they're in high-def. But a piece with the voice actors (including Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, and Ian McShane) doing their lines is fun, and the 41 minutes of making-of featurettes are interesting and informative. Particularly worthwhile are segments on design, stop-motion animation, 3-D photography, and puppetry. You can watch the movie with a director-and-composer commentary or with PIP options that let you choose among crew interviews, shots as rough drawings, and the matching voicing sessions. BD-Live offers trailers and another documentary segment. The second disc of this Collector's Edition is a standard DVD of the film, and you also get a digital copy.

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