Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

02 June 2009

Kids' Movies

I saw two kids' movies in the span of a couple of days. That is, I saw two animated movies in the span of a couple of days. One is definitely a kids' movie; the other is too, but it is also, definitely, something else...

Pete Docter's Up is charming and frequently funny and always sentimental. I liked it a lot because it has the same Pixar magic we've gotten used to with delightful features like Ratatouille and The Incredibles. Up is not as good as either of those two pictures, but it has some delightful, magical moments all the same.

Up is the story of an old white man who, in order to keep a promise to his deceased wife, transports their old family home from the middle of the city by tying thousands of balloons to the grate in the fireplace and floating it to South America. This is the stuff of movie magic: a rainbow of translucent balloons sailing by the windows of city-folk, busying themselves about their days. The rest of the film is much more conventional. In fact, the rest of the film is essentially one of the oldest movie narratives there is; to wit, a curmudgeonly, misanthropic old man meets a young kid who depends on him completely, and so the old man shows his true colors—invariably the feelings owned by a heart of gold—which had (but you knew this) been there all along, they just needed someone to love.

Conventional though it is, Up is at times breathtaking, frequently very funny, and nearly always visually (if not narratively) imaginative.

Henry Selick's Coraline, on the other hand, is totally completely brilliant from start to finish. The look of the film is stunning (it will remind you, immediately, of Selick's The Nightmare Before Christmas); the visuals consistently intrigue, even when the plot is interesting enough that they don't need to. The voice talent—Keith David, in particular—is stellar.

The story... is the story of a horror movie, basically. Coraline is never disturbing enough that it would be inappropriate for children, but it is incredibly unnerving almost at all times, and visually... visually the movie is just wonderful. Again and again and again my jaw dropped in disbelief at the things that Coraline puts on the screen. It's a beautiful movie, well worth your time. Compared to Up, Coraline knocks it out of the water.