CORALINE – Film Review

Coraline Jones (voice of Dakota Fanning) is an eleven-year-old girl who is feisty, curious, and adventurous beyond her years. She and her parents have just relocated from Michigan to Oregon. Missing her friends and finding her parents to be distracted by their work, Coraline tries to find some excitement in her new environment. Coraline seriously doubts that her new home can provide anything truly intriguing to her, but it does; she uncovers a secret door in the house. Walking through the door and then venturing through an eerie passageway, she discovers an alternate version of her life and existence.

Rewatching Coraline today brought me right back to my best memories of being a kid. When this film was released in theatres eleven whole years ago, I was nine years old and in the fourth grade. My best friend and I saw the trailer for the first time together a couple of weeks before the movie actually hit theatres, and we were both amazed by everything the film promised. As soon as we finished watching that trailer, we were practically counting down the days until the film was released, and when it did come out, we both saw it and couldn’t stop talking about it with one another. It truly whisked us away to a dark and twisted world, but one that was so full of imagination and wonder.

Ever since that day, I have rewatched the film numerous times over to the point where I genuinely couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen it. It’s without a doubt one of my most rewatched films of all time and one of my biggest comfort movies. Whenever I’m having a bad day, there is nothing quite as magical and fun as Coraline.

Throughout the years, I have seen hundreds of people online say that Coraline is one of the creepiest movies they have ever seen. This may come as quite the shock because it is, at its core, a children’s movie. With that being said though, the subject matter and the majority of the imagery present are downright scary, even to me today. It’s not just kids that are going to feel a little bit uneasy while watching Coraline, it’s adults too.

This is one of those movies that I firmly believe got the wrong MPAA rating. It’s only rated PG, and that just doesn’t make sense to me. This should have been rated PG-13 because, while it doesn’t have any swearing or blood anywhere throughout, its themes, imagery, and story are enough to give anybody the chills. Back when I first saw the movie, I was absolutely frightened, but oddly enough, I loved the film all the same.

© Focus Features 2009

It’s also so fascinating that Coraline was the first major motion picture by company LAIKA Studios, which has quickly become my all-time favorite animation studio of all-time. The things that they are able to create and bring to life on the big screen are a work of art. Every single one of their movies to date feels so lively and full of wonder. They tell stories that will make audiences of all ages feel like a kid again and present an animation style that simply can’t be topped.

Coraline is one of the most beautifully animated movies ever created. Every frame on-screen is carefully animated and has so many intricate details that you can notice. It takes a grueling amount of time to even create one ten-second scene using stop-motion and the brilliant minds over at LAIKA were able to craft a one-hundred-minute feature film using the art form. Most people, myself included, would almost certainly give up after a while, but not LAIKA. Their hard work and dedication shows throughout every scene in Coraline.

But aside from all the beautiful visuals in this film, it also just has an amazingly interesting story. At first, when Coraline enters the Other World and meets her Other Mother and Other Father, everything seems perfect for her. In the real-world, Coraline’s parents are too busy working every second of the day to give her any sort of attention that she wants. She often feels left out and extremely alone.

Her father is a really bad cook and Coraline seriously dreads dinner time, because she knows that she is going to have to put up with the meals her father cooks for her. But in the Other World, everything is the exact opposite. Her Other Parents give her all the attention in the world and make her feel like she is the most important person in their life. They cook her mouth-wateringly delicious meals that she simply can’t get enough of.

The Other World seems almost too good to be true to Coraline. She has her doubts about the place but finds herself coming back day after day because everything is so much better for her there. It’s only when the Other Parents start to exhibit some seriously creepy behavior that Coraline starts to get a little bit uncomfortable and slowly discovers some disturbing things going on in the Other World that chills her bones.

Watching her slowly learn more and more about the Other World is equal parts chilling and fascinating to watch. As every scene goes by, Coraline gets more and more unnerving and will make you question how this is a suitable movie for young children to watch. Don’t get me wrong, your kids would probably really enjoy this film if they did watch it, but don’t be surprised if they have nightmares for a few days after watching it.

Coraline is one of the most important movies ever made for me. I have seen it dozens of times now but it never loses its magic all these years later. It’s still just as encapsulating and wonderous as ever and is a genuine landmark in the stop-motion animation field.

With its downright chilling and disturbing storyline, breathtaking animation style, and stunning visual effects, there’s no denying that Coraline is one of the greatest animated films of all-time.

Overall Grade: A+

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, scary images, some language, and suggestive humor

Cast: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Ian McShane, Keith David, John Hodgman, John Linnell, Robert Bailey Jr.

Directed by: Henry Selick

Distributed by: Focus Features

Release Date: February 6, 2009

Running Time: 100 minutes

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