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MTBS’ Coraline Movie Review

By Pam Swartz



Last night I had a wonderful dream. I dreamed that there was a small door at the end of my hallway that leads into a parallel universe. My place was a shiny new luxury apartment with new appliances, fresh paint and plush carpeting.

My landlord wasn’t a cheap, stingy man. He was a kind man, who always made sure that the heat was on, and that the snow and ice were always cleared promptly after every snowstorm. When repairs were needed, he sent over someone right away no matter what time of the day it was, and never complained or waved the bill at me months later.

He was happy to come and pick up my rent check every month, and never ever threatened to evict me if I didn’t write him 6 months worth of post dated checks. At one point in the dream, he even told me that I could stop paying rent and live in my place for free forever!

I seriously considered staying in this alternate reality. The only thing I had to do was let his wife sew buttons on top of my eyes… and that’s when I woke up to a freezing cold apartment with no hot water, a broken washing machine, and a walkway and parking lot that was knee deep with ice and snow!

In a nutshell, my dream was kind of like the story in the movie Coraline, except a little less dark and creepy. The Coraline movie is based on the 2002 novella written by Neil Gaiman. Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) is an 11-year-old girl who recently moved from Michigan to the Pink Palace apartment house in Oregon with her mother (Teri Hatcher) and father (John Hodgman).

Mr. and Mrs. Jones are both busy writers that work from home. They just don’t have much time for or interest in Coraline, who is their only child, and she is miserable having just moved away from her old home and friends.

One day after meeting all her eccentric neighbors, she is exploring her new home and finds a small door that leads to a brick wall. Later that night while Coraline is sleeping, she dreams that she goes through the door and enters into a parallel universe. It is her life and her home, but instead of being dull and boring, it is exciting and fun.

Instead of having parents that have no time for her, and a mother that doesn’t cook dinner, she is greeted with loving parents, and a wonderful home cooked meal. Everyone in this magical place has one thing in common: they all have buttons for eyes. After awhile, Coraline is told that she can stay here forever and make this her only reality. She only needs to do one thing…allow her “Other Mother” to sew buttons on top of her eyes to make her transition complete.

After a frightening experience, Coraline realizes that her “Other Mother” is not a caring person, but instead an evil demon that has resided inside the house for years, and lives to possess and devour children. She realizes that she must get back to her real life to save her parents and herself before she is trapped in this parallel universe forever.

Henry Selick, who also made The Nightmare Before Christmas, created Coraline. It is the first stop-motion animated feature to be envisioned and filmed entirely in stereoscopic 3-D, and took over 3 years to make. Having seen the movie, it is obvious that much pain staking detail went into making this picture.

Had Coraline been presented only in 2D it would have been just as good. The story is entertaining, and the actors voicing the characters do a fantastic job. Dakota Fanning is perfect as a bored and precocious pre-teen. Teri Hatcher is equally convincing in her dual role as mother and “other mother”. It has all the qualities and requirements that a movie needs to keep the viewer’s interest.

Three dimensionally speaking, there are times during the movie where things appear flat, and the 3D is really not noticeable at all. However, because the story is so well done, these moments are not very distracting. When the 3D is more pronounced, it is a bonus to an already fun film.

One 3D scene that stands out in my mind is in the garden in Coraline’s parallel universe. It was breathtaking to see the flowers and foliage blossom in the moonlight in true 3D. There is another scene later in the film when Coraline starts to realize that she might be in trouble in the alternate world. Faces and objects start to warp and stretch. The 3D enhances this psychedelic imagery, and leaves the viewers feeling both strange and disturbed (appropriately so).

Coraline has the essentials to be a a classic like “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. Through stunning visuals, it is playfully dark, humorous and creepy. With the addition of Coraline in the theatres, 2009 is looking to be a great year for 3D cinema.

3.5 out of 4 stars - Some scenes are not appropriate for small children.

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