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Overall Rating

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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by Jay Seaver

"Dark delight"
5 stars

"Coraline" is a dark delight, although, honestly, more delightful than dark. Filmmaker Harry Selick has found a match for his sensibilities in author Neil Gaiman, and has made fantastic use of the opportunities that today's 3-D technology gives him.

Coraline Jones (voice of Dakota Fanning), we're told, is a young girl from Michigan whose parents (voices of Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) have just uprooted her to Oklahoma, to live in an apartment house that is shared with a pair of retired actresses (voices of comedy duo Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders) below and a one-time circus person (voice of Ian McShane) above. The only other kid in the neighborhood is nerdy and annoying Wyborn "Wybie" Lovat (voice of Robert Bailey Jr.). The place his not entirely without interest; Wybie has found an old doll with a curious resemblance to Coraline, down to her blue hair and yellow boots, and there's a tiny painted-over door in the apartment that opens to a brick wall. Except, sometimes, it opens into a tunnel, and on the other side of that tunnel is a house just like Coraline's - except what is boring at home is magical there, and everyone has buttons for eyes. She can stay there forever - provided, of course, she lets her "other mother" sew those buttons on her face.

The lesson to be learned hear is obvious, of course: "Things that look too good to be true generally are". But what delights there are! Selick gives us several spiffy set pieces, and while some of the character designs are on the grotesque side, the ones we see the most are fantastic. I love just looking at Coraline, with her blue hair and big feet, and simple facial features that are nonetheless very expressive. What's most impressive is how flexible the design of Coraline's mother is - she goes from irritated mother to fantasy mom to monster with just a few alterations.

Selick's work as an animator is nearly flawless. His characters aren't just designed well, but have personality to their movements, enough that they can often communicate silently. Given the opportunity to shoot in three dimensions, he and director of photography Pete Kozachik make great use of the depth offered by the format. Most of the time the animation is very smooth, but sometimes it isn't, in a way that perhaps deliberately signals to the audience that this is a film mostly made of things people held in their hands, as opposed to existing entirely in the digital realm. I love the way the filmmakers warp space at times, from the tunnel that was made for 3-D viewing to how a fantasy world ends once it is explored too much.

The screenplay is well-balanced as well. Not having read the original novella, I don't know how much of that is Selick and how much is Gaiman's original work, but the film does a fine job of communicating its mythology without pounding upon the audience with the details. It's a little scary for young kids, to be sure, but kids like being scared in moderation, and the movie gives the audience moments to feel safe before plunging Coraline into the next scary situation. She's nicely balanced between being given enough help to not be Supergirl but also triumphing in large part by being brave and smart and good-hearted, even if adults will recognize some of how she acts as being things kids do to drive their parents nuts.

Dakota Fanning is fine as the voice of Coraline, although mostly as a somewhat generic little-girl voice (as good a young actress as she is, animation doesn't let her communicate with facial expressions and body language). Teri Hatcher is pretty great giving voice to Coraline's mother and other mother, giving the latter too-sweet tones that set off alarm bells in the audience but would be decidedly appealing to Coraline. Keith David is the other standout voice, not quite fitting the stereotype that the phrase "cool cat" brings to mind but being enough in the neighborhood so that it works.

All those parts are pretty great, but its the way Selick fits them all together that makes "Coraline" a great film, and one that certainly shouldn't be missed while it's still playing in 3-D at some locations.

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originally posted: 02/09/09 16:07:05
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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
3/17/09 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
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  06-Feb-2009 (PG)
  DVD: 21-Jul-2009


  DVD: 21-Jul-2009

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