Film Review: Coraline (2009)

Coraline (2009)
With the voices of: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Keith David
Directed by: Henry Selick
Written by: Henry Selick, based on Neil Gaiman’s novel
Rated: PG
Rating: 5 (out of five)

CoralineCoraline is the third stop-motion film from Henry Selick, the mastermind behind The Nightmare Before Christmas.  (I will admit that I thought Corpse Bride was his handy-work too, but it turns out I was very wrong there.)  It is nothing short of brilliant.  When an animated film is so good that you forget you are watching animation, the creators have really accomplished something.  When they manage to do that against what seems like all odds, they’ve created something truly amazing.

Coraline Jones (that’s “CORE-a-line” not “CARE-o-line”) has just moved to a new apartment with her parents.  They are horticulturalists of a sort, but lately they’ve been putting aside actually cultivating a garden in favor of writing.  Her father is authoring a catalog that he hopes to be his magnum opus that will feed the family.  Coraline doesn’t care in the least and is more interested in having adventures.  Their new neighbors, Mr. Bobinsky, Miss Spink, and Miss Forcible, though colorful, aren’t enough.

On her first foray into her new surroundings she meets the son of her apartment’s proprietor, Wybie.  And a sly black cat.  Bored with their lack of creativity, she retreats back into her house and begins cataloging everything she finds.  Which includes an curiously small door that has been wall-papered over.  After sufficiently pestering her mother enough that she gives in, the door is opened, only to reveal a brick wall.

That night Coraline is awoken by a jumping mouse whom she follows through the house.  To the curiously small door.  Through the curiously small door.  And into the Other World, where she meets her Other Mother, and her Other Father, and the Other Wybie, and that strange cat.  Everything is perfect at first glance.  Her mother is baking tasty meals and her father is full of life and energy and all they want to do is please Coraline.  It takes her a few minutes to notice that their eyes are mere black buttons sewn onto their faces.

Retreating back to into the Real World, Coraline is once again faced with the sheer monotony that she feels makes up her life, and she quickly finds herself venturin g back into the Other World and becoming more and more at home there.  As is the case with these stories, it’s not long before she discovers that the black buttons are there for a reason, and that hiding under all the shiny facades of fun is something evil.

Coraline is a story about youth.  It’s about youth itself learning to embrace life and finding adventure.  It’s about youth’s influence on adults.  It’s about the adults lusting after youth in dangerous ways.  It’s about adults finding their youth again and their lives brightening and adults not leaving their youth behind.

Gaiman’s writing is always rooted in myths and folk tales.  What Gaiman always does well is to make these common tales uniquely his own.  Coraline is no exception to this.  And I hate the fact that I haven’t read the book!  (Though the movie, I hear, is sufficiently close to the book, there are some variances.  Notably Wybie, who isn’t in the book at all.)

More than being a great modern folk tale, Coraline is an amazing visual feast and an incredible technical achievement to boot.  I’ve linked an article at the bottom that was eye-opening.  Who knew that the Other Mother morphing into her real self was such a painstaking shot to produce!

All in all, this film deserves a spot on anyone’s shelf and is a great movie to get the whole family together.  Perhaps I have a dark vision of what family movies should be, but I still think it’s a great film.  Technically, creatively, visually – all of it comes together perfectly.


Great article on the making of:

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1 Response

  1. Elizabeth February 2, 2010 / 9:43 pm

    I loved it! Very very much.

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