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Movie Review: 'Coraline' a frightful delight better suited for adults

Lane Blevins • Feb 13, 2009 at 12:00 AM

There is something special about watching an artist or an athlete who is the absolute best at what they do.

Look at Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, for example. I remember watching Phelps during his record-shattering swims in the summer games and being awestruck by his ability. I know nothing about the proper techniques of swimming, yet I could see the differences between him and his competition. The hours of passionate training were clearly evident in his performance.

So, too, is the skill and sheer talent of “Coraline” director Henry Selick. With his latest film, Selick has, without question, secured his place as the greatest stop-motion animator to date. Watching his unique style and his mastery of the craft was a special experience.

I sat in the theater and marveled over “Coraline” through every single frame. With the never-before-seen stop-motion techniques, the amazing story by Neil Gaiman and the hilarious cast of side characters, Selick has even topped his landmark film, “The Nightmare Before Christmas. CLICK THE BOX BELOW to view the trailer.

For any who may not be familiar with stop-motion technique, it is a style of animation that uses models which are manipulated and photographed frame by frame. When the film is played back, there is the illusion of motion. It is a painstaking process. The most familiar stop-motion artist is Ray Harryhausen, whose work is instantly recognizable in films such as “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.”

Selick, who was inspired by Harryhausen’s ground-breaking techniques, has taken this format to another dimension with “Coraline.”

Coraline is a young girl who struggles for attention from her workaholic parents. She has become very imaginative in order to keep herself entertained. Her curiosity reaches a fever pitch when she finds a small door in her house that has been locked and hidden away.

Her mother, exasperated by Coraline’s incessant questioning about the door, finally agrees to unlock it. But Coraline is disappointed to find nothing but a brick wall behind the door, presumably constructed when the house her family lives in was divided into apartments.

At night, however, Coraline discovers that the door leads to another apartment seemingly identical to her own. Instead, she finds it is everything she has ever dreamed of. Her family, friends, and neighbors are there — but these “other” versions seem to be better.

Her parents want to spend time with her, and her neighbors are fascinating performers that put on magnificent shows. The only difference is, her “other” parents and friends have big black buttons sewn on for eyes.

Coraline soon discovers that her “dream world” comes at a price, and when she becomes trapped by her Other Mother, it becomes an exciting adventure to make it back home alive.

I can’t recommend this film enough. The visuals are amazing. The music is amazing. The dream world sequences are amazing. It was an excellent experience, even without the 3-D presentation.

As far as children go, I must say some of the images are intense and might not play well with kids 7 or younger. Also, there are suggestive elements that some parents might not want their children to see.

As for adults, you will have a GREAT time at this picture.

4 stars (out of 4)

STARRING: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Ian McShane

DIRECTED BY: Henry Selick

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

RUNNING TIME: 1 hour and 41 minutes

Lane Blevins is a recent graduate of East Tennessee State University and an aspiring filmmaker.

For trailers from new and upcoming movie releases, CLICK HERE.

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