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Coraline (movie)

A 2009 stop motion animated fantasy film directed by Henry Selick.

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Be Careful What You Wish For

  • Apr 10, 2010
Neil Gaiman is known mostly for his graphic novels and a handful of Children's Literature (not to mention an adult novel or two).  He's all over and has a pretty big cult following.  When he began writing Coraline it was mostly just a free write.  Hence, he didn't know where the story was going or what would happen next.  When he was finished with it, his first thought was: Henry Selick would like this.  And he had his agent send it off to Henry Selick who did, indeed, love it.  The book Coraline was published in 2002 and became, like many of Gaiman's works, a cult classic.

Contrary to popular belief, The Nightmare Before Christmas wasn't directed by TIm Burton.  It was produced by Tim Burton.  At the time Nightmare Before Christmas was being made, Tim Burton had his hands full with Batman Returns.  So rather than take the reins on Nightmare Before Christmas, he hired director Henry Selick.  So it's a Tim Burton production, it just wasn't directed by Burton.  And Henry Selick became quite popular for stop motion animation after that.  He was delighted to be able to work on Coraline.  And making Coraline became something that was unusually challenging, for the reason that stop motion animation is a long process.  Aside from just knitting all the costumes you see by hand and creating everything you see on screen by hand, you can only shot it one frame at a time.  As the crew recalls, shooting four seconds in a day was considered a good day.  Neil Gaiman in particular, was fascinated with how Coraline was made.  Not just seeing his book come to life, but watching just how they did it.  Taking ordinary things like popcorn or a dog toy and turning them into flowers.  Coraline was an ambitious project from the get go.

The story of Coraline focuses aptly on its central character.  She and her family have just moved to a house in the middle of nowhere.  The neighbors are strange and a kid named Wyborne won't leave her alone.  Her parents spend a lot more time ignoring her as well.  One day Wyborne sends Coraline a doll that looks exactly like her.  Coraline keeps the doll.  Later on she discovers a door in a wall.  When she unlocks it there's nothing more than a brick wall... until night fall.  When night comes there is suddenly a door that takes her to another world.  In this other world her other mother and other father are a lot nicer than her real mother and father.  The world is magical.  She gets to eat whatever she wants and her other father has a wonderful garden.  Even the other versions of her neighbors are better and more entertaining.  Things are just all around better in this world.  The only thing that seems strange is that everyone has buttons for eyes.  It's not long before her other mother approaches Coraline and offers her buttons for eyes as well.  It's at this point that Coraline realizes this world isn't as fantastic as she initially thought, and that her other mother just might not be so loving.

The story is pretty simple stuff.  For something that seems to be aimed at children, it's quite dark in its approach.  For small children it may be scary.  It's not too long or too short and it hardly waste time jumping into things.  Though it is absolutely obsessed with how pretty it is and what can be done in specific scenes.  And make no mistake, Coraline is a beautiful movie.  It may be the prettiest stop motion animated film in recent history.  The cinematography really brings this to light as well.  The sweeping camera shots can make you feel like you're watching a sequence of dreams at some parts... and nightmares at others as the film gets darker and darker.

The voice acting in Coraline is also very good.  There are quite a few voice talents.  Teri Hatcher as Coraline's mother does an especially good job.  But so does Dakota Fanning.  There's a lot of emotion, but even if the voice acting was bad, there's so much more Coraline does to distract you from it.

If you're the, "It better be like the book," type of person, Coraline is like the book.  In the only way Neil Gaiman apparently felt it could be brought to the screen.  While he most certainly had no hand in the creative process, he knew exactly who he wanted to do the film.  The fact that he sent it to Henry Selick is about as close to hand-picking a director as you can get, I suppose.  Henry Selick is, for the most part, faithful to the source material.  Coraline isn't a long or difficult book to adapt, and it's pretty straightforward in its approach.  I'm sure fans of Neil Gaiman's book will appreciate Henry Selick's adaptation a great deal. 

There's a lot of work that went into Coraline.  One of the best things about the movie, however, was probably something that wasn't quite as directly hands on.  The music.  It's a really amazing soundtrack.  There are a few dark orchestral themes at work as well as certain lighter tunes.  The sound effects are also quite impressive.  When watching a stop motion animated film you suddenly notice--and appreciate--some of the productioin values in a new way.  Coraline's productions are quite meticulous.  Henry Selick and his crew made sure to get it right, because they did everything two times at least.  First they rehearsed each scene and then they filmed it.  As Neil Gaiman says, "They filmed it twice!"  Combine with, "4 Seconds a day is a good day," and the amount of work that was invested in Coraline was a lot.  Even if one were to hate the movie, it's hard not to at least give the cast and crew credit for the enormous amount of time they spent working on the movie.

There's more magic to Coraline than it appears.  It's a good film that can be haunting, but it's nevertheless fun, and well put together.  Fans of Henry Selick, or even of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, might want to check this out for the sake of curiosity. 

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May 13, 2010
I really liked this film, but the book is so much better. I was annoyed by the Wybie character who they made up for the film and detracted from Coraline's heroism, especially at the end. The voice cast and the animation was terrific and I did really appreciate that they went for a darker tone than most kiddie flicks. I wish I'd seen it in 3-D though.
April 10, 2010
I am skimming through your review because a) I haven't finished watching this movie as of today (made three failed attempts) b) I have to finish reading your new review under 'writing' LOL! I saw the 1st half of this movie and I liked what I saw. Will be right back...
More Coraline (film) reviews
review by . March 26, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   Yes, yes; I know there is a BOOK called Coraline that was the basis of this film.      I have more time to watch a movie than to sit and read, sue me.      Now that that is out of the way -      Coraline follows a young girl and her parents who have moved from the city where her parents write seed catalogs (but in reality hate dirt). Coraline is bored to tears. She wanders around meeting the other eccentric residents of the …
review by . January 22, 2011
Coraline is in my opinion one of the best kids films of the 2000's and one of the best kids movies I have ever seen. It is made by Henry Selick, the mastermind behind Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, and is made somewhat in the style of a Tim Burton movie. The animation is simply breathtaking and the voice acting is wonderful as well. The only reason I'm not giving it a 90 or 100 is that it scared the hell out of me in the theatre, but not so much in the comfort …
review by . May 02, 2011
Edgier than traditional Disney fare, Lilo and Stitch is easily the best Disney movie of the early 2000's. I'm terribly ill again and I watched this when my mom dug out some old VHS tapes. I absolutely adored this movie as a child and I still adore this today. It is a super-fun super entertaining movie that will please people young and old and has the same timeless feel that all great Disney movies has. It also features cool memorable characters, great animation, and a powerful underlying …
review by . July 22, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I personally enjoyed this film, though my son refused to continue watching it, just for the mere fact of the dark eeriness that surrounds it. The director, Henry Selick, is much more like Tim Burton than I expected, though I believe they've worked together in the past. However, since I enjoy Tim Burton movies, I enjoyed Coraline. However, I would not recommend it to you if you don't have a humor or artistic appreciation similar to that of Burton's because Coraline is right up that alley.   …
Quick Tip by . January 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Neil Gaiman's work becomes adapted to the big screen in gorgeous stop-motion animation. This is a fantastic whimsical story about us being dissatisfied with what we have, and our desires that may tend to lead us to a darker path.
review by . May 28, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
You have to feel for Henry Selick. He got somewhat of a raw deal with his directoral debut feature The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Most of the credit and accolades for that film undeservedly went to Tim Burton, who actually only provided the story and some of the character designs. The style and aesthetic of that movie was assumed to be all Burton's, but, after seeing Coraline, it's clear how much was down to Selick.   Coraline is a stunningly well designed movie; beautiful yet strange, …
Quick Tip by . July 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A huge breath of fresh air; gorgeous cinematography and reminder to cherish the things we already have. "Be careful what you wish for."
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Coraline was just so cute and mysterious at the same time... loved it
Quick Tip by . July 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A very interesting animated film, one of my favorites. I suggest watching it with as many people as possible
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
i stumbled across this movie at the redbox, i'd never heard of it. i rented it and was expecting it to be what it was marketed as, a childrens movie. it was great, just not great for kids in my opinion. the story was a little to twisted and grotesque for the younger kids.
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this movie


For the last three years, the world's oddest and most talented animators, artisans, and puppet fabricators have been hand-making LAIKA's first animated feature film, Coraline. Led by Henry Selick, the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, this team has created the first stop-motion feature shot in stereoscopic 3D. Based on the beloved best-selling children's classic by Neil Gaiman, Coraline is a fairy-tale nightmere steeped in classic storytelling, craftsmanship, and the old-fashioned art of moviemaking magic. In Coraline, a young girl walks through a secret door in her new home and discovers an alternate version of her life - a better version. But when this wondrously off-kilter, fantastical adventure turns dangerous and her "Other" parents try to keep her forever, Coraline must count on her resourcefulness, determination, and bravery to get back home.
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Director: Henry Selick
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Release Date: February 06, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: Henry Selick
DVD Release Date: July 21, 2009
Runtime: 96 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios, LAIKA
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Coraline (movie)

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