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Review: Coraline (2009)

Coraline (2009)

Directed by: Henry Selick

Premise: A stop-motion animation film about a restless girl who moves into a new house with her bland parents and discovers a secret passageway that leads to a parallel house inhabited by more exciting versions of her family. But what begins as an escape turns into a nightmare.

What Works: Coraline is one of the most impressive stop motion animation films ever made. The movements are as smooth as live action and the choreography of characters and objects is very dynamic. What is most striking about the animation is the way in which it captures the subtle, physical idiosyncrasies of the characters, especially Coraline, and uses that to sell the puppet as a real human character. The film also takes some risks with Coraline; she is actually a bit of a brat to begin the film and the story allows her to mature as she takes responsibility for herself and the danger she puts others in. The story also takes on a heavy idea for what is generally regarded as young person’s picture: that the desire for love can mutate into something ugly. These risks pay off well for Coraline as it has a lot more weight than many other animated films. Among the voice performances, Teri Hatcher stands out as the voice of Coraline’s dual mothers. The Other Mother of the parallel house slides quite well from affectionate and even loving and into threatening and Hatcher’s vocal performance is creepy without slipping into a Margaret Hamilton imitation. 

What Doesn’t: Coraline takes a number of liberties from the book upon which it is based. The film ought to be evaluated on its own merits and the changes actually improve the story, but those who have an attachment to the book may find the changes unsettling.

DVD extras: The DVD includes 2-D and 3-D versions of the film and a commentary track.

Bottom Line: Coraline is a terrific film with some great stop motion animation. The film has some weight to its story that elevates it above some other films in the animation genre.

Episode: #270 (December 27, 2009)