tek's rating:

Coraline (PG)
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Caution: spoilers!

Okay... so this is a stop-motion film, reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is hardly surprising, given that it has the same director. (No, not Tim Burton. Henry Selick. Burton was the writer/producer of "Nightmare".) And I should say Selick wrote the screenplay of Coraline, based on a book by Neil Gaiman, which I'm afraid I haven't read. And I should say the movie was made in 3-D, but I didn't get to see it in a theater. The DVD I have contains both the 2-D and 3-D versions, and came with 3-D glasses. But so far I've just watched it in 2-D. Next time I'll probably do 3-D. What else? Um... the score, by Bruno Coulais, is freaking amazing. I'm totally going to have to buy the soundtrack sometime.

Anyway... it's a very dark and weird film. The main character is a young girl named Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning), who moves into the Pink Palace Apartments, with her parents, who are writing a gardening catalog. Though they're apparently co-authors, they never seem to work together, and don't seem to relate well to each other. They also have no time for Coraline, who they seem to see as an annoying distraction from their work. Perhaps they can be somewhat forgiven for this, as they're obviously worried about money, and of course if they had regular jobs instead of working at home, it's not like their daughter could just pester them while they work. So why should she be allowed to do so as it is? Anyway, I'm not saying they're terrible parents, or anything, but even if they have a right to want to be left to their work, they could be a bit nicer about it. (But they could have been a lot worse, too.)

Well, Coraline has to spend time finding ways to amuse herself. So she soon meets a boy named Wybie, who is the grandson of the Pink Palace landlady (who isn't seen til the end of the film). Wybie is kind of odd, and seemed to me like he could be a good friend to Coraline, who's perhaps a bit odd herself (or perhaps she's not odd at all, and I was just thinking of her that way because it's an odd movie). But she mostly seemed to find him annoying. Also he had a stray black cat who he took care of. Coraline didn't like it, either. And Pink Palace actually consists of three apartments. Aside from the one now occupied by the Joneses, there's one occupied by old women named Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, former burlesque dancers who now seem quite odd. (They remind me of a cross between the Triplets of Belleville and the Darling Mermaid Darlings from Pushing Daisies.) And another apartment is occupied by Mr. Bobinsky, an old Russian gymnast who seems to be training mice for some kind of circus act. I guess. He's odd, too. Oh, and Coraline is annoyed that her neighbors keep calling her "Caroline".

At one point, Wybie gives Coraline a doll with button eyes, which he'd found among his grandmother's old things. The strange thing is, it looks pretty much just like Coraline, including the clothes she wears. And um, at some other point, when Coraline was exploring the new house, she found a small door which had been painted over. She got her mother to unlock it, and found that behind the door... whatever it led to had been bricked off. But then one night, after getting the doll (and I'm sure I'm telling all this out of order), she followed a mouse through that door, which now opened onto a weird tunnel. And on the other side, there was a replica of her house, complete with an "Other Mother" and "Other Father." Except they had buttons for eyes. But aside from that one creepy detail, they seemed much nicer than her real parents. They clearly loved her and doted on her and were just much more interested in spending time with her than her real parents seemed to be. So she really liked them.

Well, in the course of the movie, she'll return to that Other world a few times, eventually meeting an "Other Wybie," who couldn't talk (which was supposed to make Coraline like him more than the talkative real Wybie). Also, she learned that Wybie's cat could cross over between worlds, and in the Other world, he could talk. And he warned Coraline that the Other world and the Other parents weren't as perfect as they seemed. Still, she doesn't heed the warnings, because both her Other parents and Other neighbors seem much better than people in the real world. Eventually, her Other parents invite her to stay forever, and I suspect she would have, if not for one detail: they wanted her to let them sew buttons in place of her eyes. (It's understandable that she'd refuse that, but it still troubles me to think something like that was necessary for her to decide she'd rather stay with her real parents.) But anyway, her Other Mother gets upset by her refusal, and reveals her true, evil nature.

Coraline manages to escape, but back in the real world, finds that her parents have been captured. So she goes back to rescue them, by striking a deal with the Other Mother. It involves a game, because the Other Mother (aka the Beldam) loves games. (This is a pretty familiar trope.) I don't want to say too much about the nature of the game, though I want to mention that Coraline is helped by the use of a stone which reminds me of something from The Spiderwick Chronicles. Of course, the heroine wins in the end, and things pretty much return to normal. But, you know, happier.

Um, so anyway, I feel like I've said too much, but I've left out plenty of details. And of course, the movie is pretty awesome. Great visuals, great music, an interesting, weird, funny, and creepy story. And I almost wanna rate it "loved", but... not quite. I might change my mind upon subsequent viewing, though. And... I hope I'm not forgetting anything I wanted to say.


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