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Coraline (2009)

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Score: 6/10

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Release Date: February 6th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Henry Selick Actors: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Ian McShane, Jennifer Saunders, Keith David, John Hodgman

I

nsanely inventive characters and a generous helping of darkly macabre visuals permeate every facet of “Coraline.” The wildly imaginative world created certainly works to overshadow any shortcomings the film has in story and pacing.  Upon closely examining the plot, however, one can find a rather poorly developed villain and numerous contrived devices that give the young adventurer far too much help, consequently reducing the severity and intensity of her trials.  But at least everything looks fantastic.

Having just moved to the eerily isolated Pink Palace Apartments, and being consistently ignored by her parents, Coraline (Dakota Fanning) finds herself terribly bored.  But all that changes when she discovers a mysterious hidden doorway that leads to an alternate world – one that parallels her own, but seems much better.  In this other reality Coraline finds what she believes she’s always wanted – but soon learns just how deceptive appearances can be…

At first, her visits to the other world seem like dreams – she has a more loving, playful mother, an exciting father who actually likes gardening (something Coraline enjoys), and amazing food, instead of the goop she’s usually served. Even the eccentric next-door circus ringleader Mr. Bobinsky is more jubilant and the dramatic theater-loving neighbors Miss Spink and Miss Forcible are entertaining. While every “Other” character has improved, each one has buttons instead of eyes. And the catch becomes apparent when the Other Mother insists that Coraline adopt button eyes of her own.

It’s darker and more sinister than Henry Selick’s previous stop-motion films “James and the Giant Peach” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” but has familiar elements from the visionary mind of Neil Gaiman. It’s like a more twisted version of “Alice in Wonderland,” complete with a talking cat. The atmosphere is splendidly enchanting, the environment is unique, and the visuals are top-notch. The animation is also seamlessly blended between puppets, extravagant sets, and computer graphics. The pacing, however, is a little slow and the production as a whole doesn’t succeed as a family film (or even a children’s movie) due to its unnerving plot.  And while the heroine receives plenty of attention, the villain’s backstory is mysteriously absent, leaving audiences to wonder about the point of orchestrating such an elaborate facade.

Coraline debuts in 3D, but overall doesn’t take advantage of the technology. Objects don’t jump out from the screen, and few scares are derived from poking into the third dimension. Skipping a 3D screening isn’t missing much.

– The Massie Twins

 



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