Coraline Movie Review
Review by Dakota Grabowski (B+)
Terrifying, grotesque, and downright creepy is what someone might call Coraline without ever seeing the film. But the truth of the matter, Coraline is a children's film at heart with a gratifying story to tell. Beautiful from start to finish, it's the year's first must-see film that is brought to you by the brilliant minds of Henry Selick and Neil Gaiman.
If you've never read the book or seen a trailer for the flick, Coraline is about the self-titled girl who moves from Michigan to Oregon with her parents and discovers a mysterious world within her new home. This new world oddly is similar to the real world with having the same inhabitants such as her mom, father and neighbors – but there's one exception: all of them have buttons for eyes and are the exact opposite in terms of personality and characteristics. This is where things begin to acclimate to uncanny oddities such as talking cats, dogs that resemble bats and circus mice that turn into disgusting rats.
Yes, this new world seems fine upon first impressions, but as Coraline soon finds out, not everything is as it seems. Her new mother, called "Other Mother", turns from a benevolent soul to despicable creature looking to satisfy her own entertainment. In fact, the "Other Mother" (a.k.a. Beldam) has created the entire world to replicate the desires of Coraline by watching Coraline's life through the eyes of a doll. Whatever Coraline wants in the real world, Beldam creates it in her alternate world to lure Coraline to staying. When Coraline finally decides that she'd rather have her real parents and her old life back, Beldam becomes even more frightening by kidnapping Coraline's parents. With no looking back, Coraline must save her parents from Beldam and figure out the riddles set before her to set things right again.
When the story ends, viewers may be a little lost on the background behind Beldam and how she came to reside in Coraline's house, but it's nothing more than a mystery for viewers to interpret themselves. In terms of exposition, Selick did a great job at giving viewers an exciting roller-coaster ride as they unravel the mysterious world of Coraline. From start to finish, you'll be on the edge of your seat thrilled by what occurs on the screen for our beloved heroine as she wonders about mystifying world set before her. The only issue is that the storyline is predictable and without too much guessing, you'll know the ending before it occurs.
Perhaps the best feature of Coraline is its visual aspects. If you happen to see the film in 3D, it'll give you a whole new outlook on 3D pictures. Never have I seen a film with so much depth and realism that made me feel like I could reach out and touch the objects in the film. Even without the 3D facet, the film is a testament how far one filmmaker could go with stop-motion animation. Henry Selick truly is a master for the genre as he's done incredibly looking films in the past with The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach and Coraline is no different. The only issue that needs to be raised is that young children may develop nightmares from this film if they haven't already been exposed to such creepy children's films. But in all reality, with the stuff that's on television in today's society, Coraline is nothing that a six-year-old couldn't handle.
The voice-acting of Coraline is top-notch with stellar performances by Ian McShane as Mr. Bobinsky and Dakota Fanning as Coraline Jones. Every time Mr. Bobinksy was on screen, he stole the scene with amusing dialogue and wonderful animations. Outside of Fanning and McShane, Teri Hatcher (Desperate Housewives), John Hodgman (Baby Mama), Keith David (Disney's Gargoyles), along with the comedic duo of Jennifer Saunders (Shrek 2) and Dawn French (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) help round out a wonderful cast that don't overplay their parts by any means. With the dynamic cast that was able slip into their roles with ease, Coraline excels as an animated film on all grounds.
So while it is a children's story, viewers must be wary on taking anyone under the age of six to the film unless they have already been exposed to such material in the past. Not resorting to cute sidekicks or funny one-liners, Coraline is as extremely well written and directed film that is carried by its fantastic visuals and outstanding voice-cast that lose their selves within the roles. You can certainly add Coraline to the list of big-screen adaptations of Gaiman that exceeded expectations such as 2007's Stardust.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.