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Review: Coraline

In On Film on February 8, 2009 at 8:13 pm


Based on Neil Gaiman’s 2002 novel about a little girl wishing for a change in parents, Coraline is the newest stop motion feature from Henry Selik (Nightmare Before Christmas/James and the Giant Peach). True to his Nightmare Before Christmas roots, Selik delivers another dark and creepy tale that is both enjoyable for kids as well as adults. The story centers around 11 year old Coraline Jones. Coraline, feeling neglected by her parents, finds herself yearning for parents that would actually listen to/care what she has to say. After moving from Michigan to Oregon, Coraline soon discovers a wonder in her new house that could grant her wish. However, as the tagline of the film suggests, “be careful what you wish for”. As Coraline is thrust into a new world with parents who listen to every word she has to say, make wonders for her, and feed her anything she wants, she soon discovers that everything too good to be true probably is.

I have a reputation amongst my friends of being a bit cynical when it comes to…well, just about everything. Admittedly, I usually find something wrong about a film and pick at that until I’ve convinced myself that the film was nothing more than garbage. Well, I am proud to say that I can’t do that with this film. Rarely have I ever walked out of a movie and said something like, “Wow, that was a work of art”. Again, my tradition of cynicism was broken when I found myself uttering those very words as I exited the theater.

The visuals in this movie are stunning. There are many scenes (most notably the “Coraline Garden” scene) that will pull you in with just how beautiful they really are. Let me also say, if making the choice to see the movie in 3D or 2D, definitely go with 3D. Having recently suffered through the My Bloody Valentine remake, I was ready to give up 3D. However, I am glad I gave it a second chance with Coraline. The 3D in this movie isn’t used as a gimmick. You won’t find things constantly being thrown at the screen in order to exploit the 3D aspect. What you will find is that the 3D adds a whole new element to the film. It sounds insane, but it’s used so effectively that you’ll feel as if you are lurking in the background of Coraline’s world, spying on her every move. Sure that’s an extremely creepy way of describing it, but you’ll know what I mean when seeing it for yourself.

Another thing that surprised me about the film was just how creepy and dark it was. I loved the fact that Selik didn’t water the film down just to “protect” all of the kids in the audience. Near the third act, Coraline probably could be considered scary to many watching. In the theater I was in, I honestly noticed adults cringing and discussing just how creepy the film was. I must admit that Teri Hatcher’s portrayal of Other Mother will probably haunt the dreams of every kid who lays eyes on her. But that’s what’s so great about the characters in this film. They are extremely effective at stirring the imagination and evoking emotion from the viewer. Speaking of emotion, that is another wonderful aspect of the film. The movie evokes emotion without making it seem forced. Coraline is such a likable character that you can’t help but become attached to her. You can’t help but find yourself rooting for her and hoping that she’s fine in the end. Even the most annoying characters in the film are just as likable as Coraline, and in my opinion, this aspect also goes a long way in making the film great.

As much gushing as I’ve done over the film thus far, I must admit that I have one minor complaint with the film; it dragged on too long in various scenes. In my own humble opinion, I think if this movie was trimmed down a bit here and there, it would have been just as effective if not more so. Most may not agree with me on this, but it’s my sole complaint about the film. The ‘drag’ mostly is felt in the third act. Sure this is the dark/creepy/scary act, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling like it’s running a bit too long.
As I said, this is just a minor complaint, and in no way stops this from making the movie enjoyable. If nothing else, even if you’re bored with some scenes, the film is still stunning and fun to look at.

This is so silly to say this so early into the year, but Coraline is the front runner now for my movie of the year. I know it seems like I am being a bit to kind with this movie, but it’s honestly just so much fun to watch. You experience the movie rather than watching it, and when that takes place, you really have something special. Like I said previously, if it’s possible, see this in 3D. I am sure 2D would be just as good, but this movie is truly meant to be seen in 3D. So feel free to crawl through the door into the immensely entertaining world of Coraline. Just be sure to reject any offers of sewing buttons into your eyes.

Final Grade: B+


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