Coraline (2009)
June 10, 2020 9:05 PM - Subscribe

An adventurous 11-year-old girl finds another world that is a strangely idealized version of her frustrating home, but it has sinister secrets.

NYTimes: There are many scenes and images in “Coraline” that are likely to scare children. This is not a warning but rather a recommendation, since the cultivation of fright can be one of the great pleasures of youthful moviegoing. As long as it doesn’t go too far toward violence or mortal dread, a film that elicits a tingle of unease or a tremor of spookiness can be a tonic to sensibilities dulled by wholesome, anodyne, school-approved entertainments.

Roger Ebert: "Coraline" is disturbing not for gory images but for the story it tells. That's rare in itself: Lots of movies are good at severing limbs, but few at telling tales that can grab us down inside where it's dark and scary.

Even more rare is that Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) is not a nice little girl. She's unpleasant, complains, has an attitude and makes friends reluctantly. Nor does she meet sweet and colorful new pals in her adventure, which involves the substitution of her parents by ominous doubles with buttons sewn over their eyes. She is threatened with being trapped in their alternate world, which is reached by an alarming tunnel behind a painted-over doorway in her own.

Empire: It’s in the Other world that Henry Selick’s gorgeous stop-motion imagination is given full reign. The real world is as bleached of colour as possible, but the Other world is (initially at least) bathed in vibrancy, and there are scenes in the delicately realised gardens that will take your breath away. Hummingbirds call Coraline’s name and glowing snapdragons form a portrait of her that’s only visible from far above — say, aboard the Praying Mantis tractor that her father rides. Touches of CG have been used here and there for full ‘how did they do that?’ effect, but most of the real magic is in the stop-motion detail: the arch of an eyebrow perfectly expressing a character’s attitude, the shine on the icing of a cake making it look edible; the glint on a silver claw adding to its menace.

NPR: Gradually, we discern the warning at the heart of this great fairy tale: Sometimes, the people who love us with the most intensity do so for reasons that have nothing to do with us, but out of their own twisted needs. Coraline is a be-careful-what-you-wish-for story, and a testimonial to self-reliance.

Slate: The film’s groundbreaking animation technique—it’s the first stop-motion feature film to be made in three dimensions—is uniquely suited to re-creating the sensory overload Coraline experiences as she steps into this brave new world. Unlike CGI, stop-motion animation is a tactile medium, its textures and volumes vividly palpable. The pink, gabled house in which Coraline and her parents live looks and feels like a dollhouse full of marvelous small objects (a tiny stuffed toy, a hand-stitched sweater) that the viewer wants to reach in and touch—and the subtly realized 3-D effects make that interaction with the image seem almost possible. The skinny-limbed, blue-haired Coraline and her castmates are actual dolls, figures that had to be moved against real (if computer-enhanced) backgrounds by human hands. For fans of the old Rankin-Bass holiday specials who’ve never quite been convinced by the shimmering gradients of computer-generated animation, this puppetry aspect of Coraline is deeply satisfying. While it’s way more visually sophisticated than Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, it has a touch of that show’s endearing wonkiness.


Streaming on Starz
posted by MoonOrb (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One of the best movies ever made, with some of the best messaging as well for kids. As great as the book is, this is one of the rare cases where the movie is better.
posted by benzenedream at 12:56 AM on June 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Perhaps John Hodgman's finest role.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:12 AM on June 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Great book, great movie. "I'm your other mother..." Brrrrr.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:09 AM on June 11, 2020

This is one of the few films where the 3D genuinely enhanced the experience.
posted by praemunire at 12:13 PM on June 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I was bitterly disappointed by this movie, as compared to the book. While I understand why they decided it was better for the narrative structure to give Coraline a human friend to talk to in place of mainly having silent/telepathic conversations with the cat, his presence ruined the ending. Instead of Coraline saving herself and her parents with her own wits, she gets rescued by a boy on a motorcycle? Ugh. Only watched the movie once in the theater, never been able to stomach revisiting it since.
posted by oh yeah! at 1:31 PM on June 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

The Princess and the Scrivener has a good video essay about the problems of Wybie as a character and another about the problems of calling out Wybie as a character. (It's a smart and fun channel in general, well worth checking out.) It really doesn't feel great calling a biracial, possibly non-neurotypical character an unnecessary addition to the narrative, but here we are. Yay for representation, boo for taking a significant amount of focus off Coraline for the sake of some boy who feels way more Henry Selick than Neil Gaiman. Wybie could be a great character in another story, but in this story he just feels forced in. The book got by just fine without a best friend character, and if they needed somebody for Coraline to talk to the silky black kitty was right there.

I'm a stop-motion nut so I got really high on all the details in this movie, the character designs and sets and stuff, but story-wise I did feel like it didn't quite live up to the book. My girlfriend is a Gaiman fanatic and I think this movie mostly just annoys her and she's waiting for somebody to do an adaptation that's closer to the book. People kept saying this movie was too scary for tiny children, and my girlfriend was like, "It's not supposed to be a story for tiny children! It's SUPPOSED to be terrifying!" Purely as it's own thing I think it's OK, with some gorgeous animation, but I think this movie probably works a lot better if you don't know and love the book or if you're an easily-scared kid. (It probably would've traumatized me for life when I was 7.)

As an aside, this movie came out at a time when we had a very curious, affectionate and all-around superb little cat. He was too smart for toys, he'd get bored with them in no time, and he much preferred the constant attention of his human friends. I was working from home and he was always interrupting by climbing on my lap and tapping on my laptop with his little paws. He actually somehow pulled up Google more than once and before I knew what was happening he'd done these searches for weird cat words. (Like, "ploo." He Googled ploo.) He was constantly pestering me when I was trying to work, and more than once I hollered, "GO COUNT THE WINDOWS!"
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:32 PM on June 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

I loved the movie. (Didn't read the book so nothing to compare it to there.)

with some of the best messaging as well for kids.

I'm not making the most subtle observation here, but there was a big split between Other Mother who promised that she'd just cater to self-centered little Coraline, and the last scenes where Coraline is finding non-illusory joy by doing things for her friends.
posted by mark k at 4:17 PM on June 11, 2020

The most visually stunning and transporting use of 3D technology that I've ever seen. Coraline is a fave for many reasons, and beautiful even in 2D on my TV, but I when I watch it that way I always miss the magic of the 3D experience.
posted by merriment at 8:37 AM on June 12, 2020

The Princess and the Scrivener has a good video essay about the problems

Unfortunately she chooses the P. Craig Russell-illustrated comic book adaptation to make her points. I think the comic book adaption is easily the worst of both worlds -- while I love PCR in other contexts, in the comic he makes the Other Mother overtly horrific rather than just unsettling, which makes you question why Coraline doesn't just GTFO as soon as possible.
posted by benzenedream at 1:35 PM on June 13, 2020

Just wanted to say - the new Netflix kdrama It's Okay to Not Be Okay has a wonderfully creepy stop-motion animated opening sequence to episode 1, I think any Coraline-movie fans would appreciate it.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:02 PM on June 23, 2020

To mark the 15th anniversary of Coraline, Laika Studios is releasing a Remastered 3D version of the movie this August! The studio shared a link where you can sign up for first access to tickets – head here if you’re interested.
posted by merriment at 3:50 PM on February 19

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