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'Coraline' Movie Review

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating
User Rating 4 Star Rating (1 Review)

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Coraline stop motion movie

Coraline (at center, voiced by Dakota Fanning) and her harried parents (voiced by John Hodgman and Teri Hatcher) in 'Coraline.'

© Focus Features
The creepy, kooky film Coraline breaks new ground as the first stop motion animated movie to be shot in 3D. Director Henry Selick's no stranger to the art form having already tackled The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, and Neil Gaiman's Coraline proves to be the perfect canvass for Selick to show off his skills while taking stop motion animation to a whole new level. Definitely not for everyone – and maybe too scary for kids who frighten easily – Coraline is strange and bizarre and undeniably beautiful.

The Story

Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is a spunky 11 year old girl who moves into a new apartment with her absent-minded mother (Teri Hatcher) and father (John Hodgman). Her parents are busy writing gardening books and don't have much time to talk to or otherwise pay attention to Coraline, so she takes it upon herself to explore her new surroundings. After checking out an abandoned well in the woods, and meeting and sort of making friends with a pesky kid named Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr), Coraline explores the rooms in her new home and discovers a tiny locked door basically hidden from view.

Coraline, being an inquisitive child, goes through the doorway and follows a passage to a house that looks strangely just like her own home. There's even a mom – known as Other Mother - and a dad – called Other Father - inhabiting this Other World who are mirror images of her own real parents but with one major difference: Other Mother and Other Father have buttons for eyes. These big black orbs reveal nothing of what's going on within Other Mother and Other Father's heads, but their words and actions indicate they love Coraline. Other Mother and Other Father want Coraline to stay with them in their world where they promise to lavish love and attention on her in ways her own parents have been neglecting to do.

Scene from Coraline

Wybie (voiced by Robert Bailey Jr.) and Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) in the Other World in 'Coraline.'

© Focus Features
At first Coraline's absolutely captivated by these strange people with button eyes who feed her delicious full course meals and really listen to her, something her parents haven't done in quite a while. But as she spends more time in this Other World, Coraline sees the evil behind the button eyes and false smiles.

The Bottom Line

When I walked out of the screening my first thought was, "I have no idea who the target audience for this is." But I actually do know who's going to go for Coraline. I loved it and Nightmare fans will love it, as well anyone who enjoys stop motion animation. The problem is that the first 30 minutes or so play to a young audience while the last hour is definitely aimed at more mature adults. But that doesn't mean younger viewers won't be transfixed by this incredibly detailed, incredibly vivid imaginary world of secret passageways leading to evil faux parents. Coraline could inspire a few nightmares involving creatures with button eyes and ghost children trapped in this world, so it's a tough call for parents on whether or not to let anyone younger than 13 check out this film in theaters.

Coraline's all but certain to be one of the finalists in next year's race for the Best Animated Film Oscar. It's gorgeous and visually fascinating, with its vibrant palette of colors showcasing stop motion animation at its very best. It's also one of the best 3D films ever to hit theaters. In fact the effects in the 3D sequences in which Coraline crawls through the tunnel between the two worlds actually made me a little nauseated. Normally, that's not a selling point for a film, but it does illustrate how real the spinning psychedelic tunnel felt to me as I watched Coraline.

Neil Gaiman's book was a twisted tale of a brave young girl who wanders into a strange world inhabited by alternate versions of her mother and father. The book was creepy, but writer/director Selick takes Gaiman's tale and ups the ante by adding an even more eerie, otherworldly tone to the subject matter.

Coraline Movie Review

Other Mother (voiced by Teri Hatcher)'s creepy true nature is revealed to Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) in 'Coraline.'

© Focus Features
Anyone who owns a copy of The Nightmare Before Christmas is going to want to snatch this one up when it hits DVD, although I suggest Nightmare fans see Coraline in theaters first to get the full effect of the 3D animation.

GRADE: B+

Coraline was directed by Henry Selick and is rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, some language and suggestive humor.

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 4 out of 5
Coraline, Member willyt2

A nine year old girl named Coraline Jones discovers a secret door in her new home and steps into a world inside that door that is much more interesting and cheerful than her normal life. But as she is exploring the fantastic world with her ""other mother"" and ""other father"" she realizes that they're less enjoyable and a little bit more self-centered than she had originally thought, so she has to get back to her normal life before it's too late because her ""other parents"" will keep her for good. If you've ever seen ""The Nightmare Before Christmas"" then you probably know what stop-motion animation looks like. Coraline has effects that are 10 times better than that and the film is a visually stunning piece of artwork. Everything from the beautiful raindrops outside Coraline's kitchen window to the intricate little buttons for eyes. Now, your probably asking yourself, ""Buttons for eyes?"" Yes, I know it sounds strange and it is strange. But that adds to the whimsical charm of Coraline's strange world. Like some family movies, the dialouge isn't the greatest and the side stories are drawn out towards the middle which also lack some of the charecter development to make this one a classic. Just because a film has great animation doesn't mean that the writers can give up on the script. Despite the boringness of some scenes, Coraline is a well made film and has made it one step further in the visual category. Try to go out and see this in 3-D because I'm sure the effects are even more groundbreaking. A little warning though to kids under six because there are some scary images blended into Coraline's twisted atmosphere.

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