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Coraline (2009)

Be careful what you wish for.

Directed by:

Henry Selick

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 100 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: PG

Country: United States

So, the 3D version of Coraline was only around at my local theater for about a week, so I just got to see the regular ol’ D version, which was fine, because as I’ve said before, no matter how cool the effect, I hate the glasses—and I really wanted to enjoy this movie unencumbered. I love Henry Selick (if you didn’t know, he did The Nightmare Before Christmas), plus I’ve recently been introduced to Neil Gaiman (he wrote the book) and I think we’re secret friends, so I was ready to love the offspring of their film coupling. I was so not disappointed, and this colorful, amazingly animated dark fairy tale was exactly what I expected, only better.

Story-wise, it’s a pretty faithful adaptation of Gaiman’s award-winning children’s book. Coraline (voice of Dakota Fanning) has just moved to a new state, in a new house, and doesn’t seem to be making many new friends. When her parents seem less-than-interested in her as well, Coraline begins to explore, soon discovering a small door to a parallel world that’s a whole lot like her own—only better. It’s like a dream come true—everything in her new world is so familiar, yet so much more exciting, and even her “Other” parents are more loving and attentive. Thrilled at first, it soon begins to occur to Coraline that something’s … not quite right … and she realizes, maybe too late, that you may not always want what you wish for.

Right off the bat, you need to realize that when I say “award-winning children’s book,” I mean the “Bram Stoker Award for work for younger readers.” THAT should indicate that this is most certainly no fluffy Bolt-like cartoon. It’s dark, and it’s creepy, and for the small or easily scared, it’s not a good idea. For the rest of us, though, climb on in through that freaky little door. As a lifelong fan of stop-motion animation, I was thrilled when stuff like The Nightmare Before Christmas started being made again, and Coraline takes that to a whole new level of technical brilliance; worlds and “sets” here jump off the screen (even when they’re not 3D), and just as with Danny Elfman in Nightmare, Bruno Coulais’ quirky score is almost its own character. There’s a bit of an “Alice in Wonderland” feel to everything, which is one of the reasons it may take longer to connect emotionally, but Fanning is the ideal voice for Coraline, and though sometimes voice performances can be overlooked when throwing praise at a cartoon, she brings us in to this weird circus by perfectly embodying her animated persona. Again, it’s not a film full of warm fuzzies, but Coraline adds a definite and much needed twist to a genre in need of a little bit of different.

It's Got: Stunning animation, Great voice talent, Some creepy.

It Needs: Parents to be sure they know what they’re getting into.

Alternatives:

MirrorMask, Neverwhere, Stardust, The Nightmare Before Christmas

Summary

It’s a freaky, creepy world for our gal Coraline, and this latest animated masterpiece from the man behind The Nightmare Before Christmas let’s us explore it with her.

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