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Movie Review: Coraline
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Coraline movie posterCoraline
Directed by Henry Selick
Starring Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Ian McShane, Jennifer Saunders, Keith David, John Hodgman
Rated PG
Release date: February 6, 2009

There is something sadistic lurking in the mind of Coraline director Henry Selick, who also wrote the script from Neil Gaiman‘s children’s book. Selick’s vision evokes bareness and disconnection at their most extreme state. Coraline looks and feels like no other animated film in recent memory. Part of its mysticism is that it lays on the outskirts of conventional films, especially kid related films, where there isn’t any cuddly sidekick, boisterous colors, or predictable plot. It has a strange aura around it, the same aura synonymous with silent films in that it creates a supernatural feel to it not allowing the audience to fully comprehend what they are watching. This just goes to show people the talent that Selick acquires. That he can take the Christmas spirit (he directed Nightmare Before Christmas) and all the tidings attached to it and turn it into an artful piece of catastrophic evil proportions is truly amazing. That he can also use the same technology he used with Nightmare, which was a stop-motion animated feature, and upgrade it in Coraline giving it the full 3D experience is equally amazing. 2009 has just begun but Coraline has the potential of being the most creative and gorgeous looking film of the year as well as the most daring.

The Victorian-style home painted a bright pink and trimmed in white, which can also double as a doll house, is worn by time and the ignorance of such upkeep that the home demands. The garden in the backyard has unlimited potential but is reduced to a swamp of mud where insects lie suffocating for air. On which the home sits on is a land that produces all the same qualities of the home and garden. One would have to trudge up layers of hills to enter the home all the while the rain never ceases to stop and the sky never indicates any hue of blue. Birds could sing here, children could be happy here, and flowers and trees could prosper here. There is life waiting to be instilled in this land but unfortunately the real world isn’t capable of holding all the beauty that this home demands. This whole environment rubs off on its inhabitants which happen to be a married couple (voiced by Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) who specialize in horticulture along with their preteen daughter Coraline.

Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) may be a brat but she just can’t relate to leaving her friends back home and moving to a remote part of Oregon. The pink Victorian home is an apartment complex (Pink Palace Apartments) that also houses a tall blue circus conductor in the attic and a pair of old ladies who share the cellar together. Selick’s imagination truly flourishes with these characters as they each have their own way of living and inside their rooms shows exactly that. The way he is able to create each character, especially Coraline’s friend Wybie, with sufficient keenness is the key to the film’s success as it introduces to the audience characters that are fully developed.

Coraline finds some comfort with these individuals but it’s her parents who eat at her most as they neglect her every chance they get and ridicule her as well. When she stumbles upon a secret door that enters her into an alternate universe (the same Pink Palace Apartments but infinitely better), she’s lured by the hand of temptation itself.

Like all great writers of fiction and even the visionaries of modern cinema (Lynch, Del Toro, and Cronenberg), each of them encourages audiences to indulge in their own sentiments in order to receive the full treatment of what they’re trying to convey. A second doesn’t go by in Coraline where one would start second guessing Selick and his motives. Every twisted face, discombobulated body, dragon-like flower, and delicious piece of food find their essence and meaning in his film. He surmounts his sentiment above all and the result is that of a world that blends an austere reality with a prevailing frightful fantasy world that appeals to both children and adults.

With that wide range of audience at his expense, Selick uses Coraline to excavate into the souls of every child and adult and locate and exploit what all fear no matter the age; our dreams slowly descending into moral decry and forming them to shape that of a living nightmare.

Rating: ***1/2

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