Portland goes Hollywood for 'Coraline' premiere

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by By KGW Staff and Associated Press

NWCN.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:34 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 24 at 12:37 PM

Video: Portland goes Hollywood for 'Coraline' premiere

PORTLAND -- Hollywood came back to the Rose City as the first feature film from Portland's LAIKA studios premiered Thursday night at the Portland International Film Festival.

The 3-D world premiere of "Coraline" quickly sold out the Arlene Schnitzer Hall, complete with red carpet, celebrities and all.

Stars of the movie were on hand for the premiere and included Teri Hatcher and Dakota Fanning.

"I love Portland. I'm familiar with the city ... I think it's beautiful," Hatcher said.

Fanning stars as Coraline in the movie. She said it was difficult working only with her voice.

"As an actress, just working with your voice is very difficult, very different for me, but that's part of my job and it's fun. It's one of those things you're not quite comfortable with, so you get to push your comfort zone, which is always fun."

"Coraline" was also the first stop-motion, animated film to be entirely conceived and shot in 3D.

Phil Knight, the founder of LAIKA studios, was pleased with the turnout.

"We're proud of what's been done and that it's in the city of Portland. I'm looking forward to seeing the first public showing -- everyone's excited, including and especially me."

Henry Selick previously directed "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "James and the Giant Peach" for producer Tim Burton, and the darkness that permeates "Coraline" called to mind Burton's trademark twisted sensibility.

The distinctly detailed movie was painstakingly rendered -- 74 seconds of footage required a week of production. It has its silly moments, such as the performance of an elaborate rodent circus, and blessedly, the three-dimensional effects are only reach-out-and-grab-you gimmicky a few times -- mostly, they provide texture and perspective.

Selick also wrote the screenplay, based on Neil Gaiman's best-seller about a little girl who becomes trapped in a parallel version of her world. Having just moved from Michigan to Oregon and feeling bored and lonely, 11-year-old Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is thrilled to discover a secret door in the living room of the dreary boarding house where she lives with her parents (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman), who are too busy writing gardening-catalogue copy to pay attention to her.

Once Coraline crawls through a long, spooky corridor, on the other end she finds a home that looks just like hers, only it's welcoming and vibrant. Dad cheerily writes music and tends to the flowers in the backyard, which arrange themselves to form her face. The neighbors -- a pair of over-the-hill stage actresses (Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French) and a self-serious Russian circus performer (Ian McShane) -- aren't odd but playfully entertaining. And the woman preparing scrumptious goodies for her in the kitchen -- the Other Mother, she calls herself -- is warm and nurturing. That is, until her psychotically possessive tendencies take over.

"Coraline" has black buttons instead of eyes. So does the Other Father (both characters are voiced by Hatcher and Hodgman). And after a few visits, they suggest that maybe Coraline might like to sew some black-button eyes onto her face, too, and join them forever. And ever. And ever.

Coraline gets some help in trying to escape this increasingly terrifying world from a talking cat (voiced by the smooth Keith David) and a goofy neighbor boy named Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr.), a character Selick created for the script. (He's an awkward and unnecessary addition.) But the Other Mother is a frighteningly formidable match, and Hatcher voices her with icy menace.

The 32nd Portland International Film Festival is presented by the Northwest Film Center.

"Coraline," a Focus Features release, is rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, some language and suggestive humor. Running time: 100 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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