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Overall Rating
4.38

Awesome51.79%
Worth A Look: 39.29%
Average: 5.36%
Pretty Bad: 1.79%
Total Crap: 1.79%

6 reviews, 20 user ratings


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Coraline
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by Mel Valentin

"A welcome return to form for director Henry Selick."
5 stars

Filmmaking pioneer Willis O’Brien first brought stop-motion animation to moviegoers in the 1920s and the 1930s through "The Lost World" and "King Kong." Fifteen years later, a young animator, Ray Harryhausen. helped O’Brien on 1949’s "Mighty Joe Young." Harryhausen would go on to perfect stop-motion animation ("Jason and the Argonauts," "Mysterious Island," "The Seven Voyages of Sinbad"). As a commercial art form, stop-motion animation has been relegated to the pre-digital past, but don’t tell that to Henry Selick ("James and the Giant Peach," "The Nightmare Before Christmas"), the writer/director of "Coraline," a stop-motion animated film shot in stereoscopic 3D based on Neil Gaiman’s ("Beowulf," "Anansi Boys," "American Gods," "Stardust," "Neverwhere," "Good Omens," "Sandman") Hugo- and Nebula-winning dark fantasy novel. Time, labor, and resource intensive, stop-motion animation requires a unique artistic temperament and extreme dedication by everyone involved, with the end result usually years away. Luckily for us, "Coraline" has been well worth the wait.

Newly arrived in town, Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) and her parents, Mel (Teri Hatcher) and Charlie (John Hodgman), move into the “Pink Palace Apartments,” a slightly dilapidated, three-story house. Although they have the first and second floor to themselves, they share the Pink Palace with Mr. Bobinski (Ian McShane), an attic-dwelling ex-circus acrobat who claims to be training a mouse circus, and Miss Forcible (Jennifer Saunders) and Miss Spink (Dawn French), ex-actresses who live in the basement apartment with their Scottie dogs. Wandering outside the Pink Palace, Coraline encounters a black cat that seems to follow her every move and Wybie Lovat (Robert Baily, Jr.), a hyperactive, hyper-talkative neighbor. Wybie gives Coraline a stuffed doll once owned by his grandmother that oddly resembles Coraline.

After failing to pull her parents away from their work, Coraline decides to explore the Pink Palace. She eventually discovers a sealed door in the drawing room. To her disappointment, the door opens to a brick wall. That night, however, Caroline spots a jumping mouse outside her bedroom door. She follows him downstairs and to the door. This time the door opens into a brightly lit, womb-like tunnel where Coraline's Other Mother and Other Father await her. Coraline's other parents are identical to her "real" parents, but have black buttons for eyes. The Other Mother and Other Father shower Caroline with attention and gifts. The Other Mother introduces Caroline to an analog Wybie that can’t speak.

Caroline quickly discovers the meaning of the phrase, “Be careful what you wish you," (it's unsurprisingly the tagline for Coraline). Despite the simplicity of the this theme (or maybe because of it), Selick to weave a mesmerizing, disturbing film, equal parts Alice in Wonderland and Grimm fairy tale (by way of Stephen King’ It!), with the Other Mother representing the maternal instinct taken to suffocating extremes (among other things) and Caroline the typically resilient, hyper-resourceful heroine children and their parents will root for. They’ll also identify with Caroline’s initial discomfort and seeming powerlessness after moving to a new town, the lack of friends her own age (with the exception of Wybie), the desire for fantasy-filled, escapist adventures, and parents that genuinely listen.

Not surprisingly, Selick excels in the two, distinct worlds he creates for Caroline. Taking a page or two from Powell/Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death and Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire), the “real” world is colorless and grey, drained of joy and humor while the Other World is bursting with color, light, Dr. Seuss-like gadgets, death- and gravity-defying performers, a “real” mouse circus, and much more. The garden’s flowers are both beautiful and dangerous (a hint of things to come for Caroline), the Pink Palace, true to its name, has a fresh coat of pink paint and white trim. Everything about the Other World is, at least initially, attractive to Caroline and, by extension, to us as well.

Funded through LAIKA, a production company founded by Phil Knight (of "Nike" fame), and released through Focus Features, "Caroline" took several years of effort by Selick and his talented craftspeople to produce (the first teaser trailer premiered almost two years ago at the 2007 Comic-Con in San Diego). "Caroline" is also the first stop-motion animated film to be produced in stereoscopic 3D from the beginning of the project ("The Nightmare Before Christmas" was converted from 2D to 3D). The 3D in "Caroline" never feels cheap or forced. Instead of projecting objects at the audience, Selick wisely chose to create or increase the depth of the environments, which in turn makes for a fully immersive experience: once you enter "Caroline’s" world, you may never want to come back (except in your nightmares).

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17039&reviewer=402
originally posted: 02/06/09 20:50:39
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User Comments

9/12/17 morris campbell SOILD 4 stars
1/30/16 Alexis H The boogeyman never lets go when it has you in its sight 5 stars
6/07/12 Joe Kucharski Proves Selick can work magic without Burton 5 stars
9/29/11 sarai aguilar love this movie me and my kids they love it i recommend it to anyone who has not seen it 5 stars
5/15/10 brian Feh. Much artistic brilliance in service of a story with too many holes. 3 stars
3/19/10 Wookah! YES!!! 5 stars
3/22/09 james obrien i loved it why not more? 5 stars
3/18/09 SMILES2ICE SUPERB ALL THE WAY!! 5 stars
3/17/09 Roy Smith The Best Movie of hte Year, really 5 stars
3/08/09 Bayls It freaked me out, everyone was screaming in the theatre, and its a bit disturbing. 2 stars
2/24/09 Anonymous. some really good animation...see it. :] 4 stars
2/22/09 Tim Weakest 3D in a movie. Mostly in the background. Coraline lacks charm. 3 stars
2/18/09 Sally Sundeen LOVED IT LOVED IT LOVED IT! 5 stars
2/18/09 mary ann evans -miller I am 60 years old and my husband and I loved it 5 stars
2/17/09 Smitty Definitely too dark to be a kid's movie but stll a good story. Visually wonderful in 3D. 5 stars
2/16/09 Chris See it in 3D if possible. It's worth the extra cost. 5 stars
2/12/09 Ming This movie is boring..I felt sleep on it 1 stars
2/10/09 Brian Great, great movie. Maybe he'll finally get the recognition he never got for Nightmare. 4 stars
2/10/09 Butt Wait for cable, watch Spirited Away again instead 3 stars
2/08/09 PAUL SHORTT A MARVEL OF STORYTELLING AND TECHNOLOGY MELDED TOGETHER INTO A WONDERFUL WHOLE 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  06-Feb-2009 (PG)
  DVD: 21-Jul-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  06-Feb-2009
  DVD: 21-Jul-2009



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