Be careful what you wish for.
Big things come in small packages for this entry in 3D-tober. Don't let it's childish looks distract you, for beneath it's charm comes a cautionary tale. The grass is always greener on the other side - but don't question the fertilizer. Be wary of what you wish for, because you might just get it. A different spin on an old concept, will it stitch us in terror, or should we leave the case buttoned up?
I love stop motion stuff. I'm glad to see that it somehow isn't a dead art form yet, even if it's largely fallen from the mainstream outside of the likes of Wallace and Gromit. Sure, it brings with it some faults all it's own, but something about it is just so very charming. It sort of overrides actual acting, considering there isn't anything on the screen that isn't a figure of sorts, but in the same time begs creativity in character design to accentuate certain aspects of characters and give that little model with it some quality of acting in it's own. Generally, this is usually pretty exaggerated - such as big old shrugs or wide flourishes - but also with facial expressions.
Although the form used to be rather choppy (and still can be sometimes), it more often than not in modern times is quite smooth with it's movements as is the case here. Little flourish details are given here and there to add a little extra - such as ground giving away underfoot because it's wet or hair moving from a big wind. For the most part, however, things aren't too busy and instead choose to stay simple enough that it's not distracting but detailed enough that it looks like there was a decent budget behind it. The later particularly comes into play when the other-world is introduced and iterated upon, being flamboyant in colors as well as motions and those little details like thread on the buttons.
The fact this is stop motion combined with the making vibrant the dark might actually do nothing but help when it comes to adding in the third dimension. Although the main type of 3D I personally enjoy the most is the gimmick "in your face" kind, this movie largely isn't that - although it does start off with such a moment with a needle, which makes me happy. There's a lot of the typical added depth brought along with 3D present here, but it also has a good couple of moments that serve as a bit of an inbetween of the two - being more than just perceived depth but not quite launching out of the screen at you. Given that things normally don't move on screen at a breakneck pace and scenes aren't outrageously dark at any given time, I think that depth might be getting that little extra edge in providing that oh-so-close feeling as it's giving you both enough time on screen and the pronounced form to focus on.
The actors do a pretty good job here as well, although largely the star of the vocal performance is Fanning, who voices Coraline. The other characters are all largely these blown-up characteristics, with a more mundane "real world" and fantastic "other world" edge applied to them. Nothing here is really all that bad when it comes to the voice acting, although at times the music will kick in like it's trying to eat what a character is trying to say in a desperate bid for attention. It's a bit of a shame - although this time around it wasn't enough that I didn't actually hear any of the lines being said, largely just a few moments that could have dealt my ears a nice blow had it not gone full--force. The music itself is actually quite charming, although that might be as a good deal of it had that very performance kind of vibe to it, reminding me a bit of a belly dance or other stage dance or perhaps even a circus act outside the normal circus tune we'd all hum.
If anything were to be the weakest link, I'd argue that it's not the most unheard of story to exist. This doesn't detract from the experience - it still offers enough different to the eyes to be fun - but doesn't lend itself to many surprises down the pipeline. The spin on the "be careful what you wish for" line is spun a little by giving a focal monster to take the roll of just "wishes going bad," and it also ends up allowing for the hero character to have a more direct confrontation beyond the usual mental developments of such a story. Of course, you could also look more into it from the aspects of it, such as the distracted parents or the unsatisfied or ignored kid, perhaps even make it about some stuff that it probably wasn't even meant to be. It's put together well enough in that regard, and it ends up not being all that huge of a weakness (which to be fair, all I said was that if there was a weakest link, it'd be this).
When it comes to the family part, I'm gonna guess it should be fine for most. There isn't really all that much violence - and what there is is usually against something that is either "fake" or quickly turns into a toy. There is a bit of "sexuality" in it, although it's fitting of the characters (a real set of starlets in their days, I'm sure) and honestly it doesn't amount to much more than a joke about bust size and I don't know how much you could argue that anybody would actually want to look at it in a sexual way to begin with. If anything, the largest thing to keep in mind for parents would be what horror level their kids could handle - there's nothing I feel should be nightmare inducing in here, but some of the scenes towards the end do go pretty nuts.
This is a fun movie. I see no reason why someone wouldn't be able to sit down and have a good time with this - be it in 3D or not. The 3D version does bring with it some of it's own charm and moments of being impressive, but largely isn't such a game-altering move that I'd say it's the only way you should watch the move (especially considering it's a good enough movie without it). It manages to be bright and colorful while still being dark and drab, while revisiting the old cautionary tale and giving it enough unique characteristics to make it not just fade into the crowd. Give it a rent sometime, you'll probably have a good time.