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Watch Coraline (2009), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want To Know About A Great Movie

 

Coraline (2009)

An adventurous 11-year-old girl finds another world that is a strangely idealized version of her frustrating home, but it has sinister secrets.

Coraline (2009) Trailer

 

Coraline (2009) Reviews

The director of “Coraline” has suggested it is for brave children of any age. That’s putting it mildly. This is nightmare fodder for children, however brave, under a certain age. I know kids are exposed to all sorts of horror films via video, but “Coraline” is disturbing not for gory images but for the story it tells. That’s rare in itself: Lots of movies are good at severing limbs, but few at telling tales that can grab us down inside where it’s dark and scary.

Even more rare is that Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) is not a nice little girl. She’s unpleasant, complains, has an attitude and makes friends reluctantly. Nor does she meet sweet and colorful new pals in her adventure, which involves the substitution of her parents by ominous doubles with buttons sewn over their eyes. She is threatened with being trapped in their alternate world, which is reached by an alarming tunnel behind a painted-over doorway in her own.

Not that Coraline’s own parents are all that great. They’re busy, distracted, bickering and always hunched over their computers. They hardly hear her when she talks. That’s why she recklessly enters the tunnel and finds her Other Mother and Other Father waiting with roast chicken and a forced cheerfulness. All she needs to stay there is to have buttons sewn into her own eye sockets.

“Coraline” is the new film by Henry Selick, who made “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993) and again combines his mastery of stop-motion and other animation with 3-D. The 3-D creates a gloomier image (take off the glasses and the screen is bright), but then this is a gloomy film with weird characters doing nasty things. I’ve heard of eating chocolate-covered insects, but not when they’re alive.

The ideal audience for this film would be admirers of film art itself, assuming such people exist. Selick creates an entirely original look and feel, uses the freedom of animation to elongate his characters into skeletal spectres looming over poor Coraline. Her new friend, Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr.), is a young hunchback whose full name is Wyborn, and it doesn’t take Coraline long to wonder why his parents named him that.

The Other Mother and Father (voices of Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman, who are also Father and Mother) essentially want to steal Coraline from her real but distracted parents and turn her into some kind of a Stepford daughter.

Their house, which looks like Coraline’s own, has two old ladies (Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French) in the basement, boarders who seem in retirement from subtly hinted careers in the adult-entertainment industry. The upstairs boarder is Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane), a sometime vaudevillian who has a troupe of trained mice. One of the rooms of the house has insects bigger than Coraline who act as living furniture.

It’s more or less impossible for me, anyway, to be scared by 3-D animation. The process always seems to be signaling, “I’m a process!” I think it’s harder to get involved in a story when the process doesn’t become invisible. I hear from parents who say, “My kids didn’t even notice the 3-D!” In that case, why have it in the first place?

Kids who will be scared by the story may not all be happy to attend, 3-D or not. I suspect a lot of lovers of the film will include admirers of Neil Gaiman, whose Hugo Award-winning novel inspired Selick’s screenplay. Gaiman is a titan of graphic novels, and there’s a nice irony that one of his written books has been adapted as animation.

I admire the film mostly because it is good to look at. Selick is as unconventional in his imagery as Gaiman is in his writing, and this is a movie for people who know and care about drawing, caricature, grotesquerie and the far shores of storytelling. In short, you might care little about a fantasy, little indeed about this story, and still admire the artistry of it all, including an insidious score by Bruno Coulais, which doesn’t pound at us like many horror scores, but gets under our psychic fingernails.

Credit is due to those who backed this film. I’m tired of wall-to-wall cuteness like “Kung Fu Panda,” and wonder if Selick’s approach would be suited to films for grown-ups adapted from material like stories by August Derleth or Stephen King.

And perhaps I didn’t make it clear that it’s fine with me that Coraline is an unpleasant little girl. It would be cruelty to send Pippi Longstocking down that tunnel, but Coraline deserves it. Maybe she’ll learn a lesson.

  • Roger Ebert –  Roger Ebert
  • Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

Henry Selick has a particular sensibility and, when choosing material for his movies, he seeks stories that fit into the slightly twisted, quasi-fairy tale realm where he feels comfortable working. Thus, in the past, he has collaborated with Tim Burton and adapted Roald Dahl.

Coraline, his fourth feature film, uses a short book by Neil Gaiman as its inspiration. Employing stop-motion animation that renders human beings with the distinctive characteristics evident in both The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, Selick finds the perfect look to bring Gaiman’s vision to life. The resulting tale may owe a little to “Hansel and Gretel” and “Alice in Wonderland,” but ultimately stands on its own.

It’s a mark of any good 3D movie that it can be watched and enjoyed on its own merits when projected in 2D, and that’s the case here. In fact, the 3D effects are in many cases subtle enough that it’s questionable whether the benefits of seeing the movie in 3D are worth the drawbacks (limited availability, a dimmer picture, more expensive tickets, and uncomfortable glasses).

Coraline does not employ an “in your face” approach to 3D. It uses the tool to provide a sense of greater depth but rarely do things pop off the screen (except during the climax). There’s nothing in this film that demands that it be watched in 3D.

The movie tells the story of a blue-haired young girl by the name of Coraline Jones (voice of Dakota Fanning), who has moved to an out-of-the-way, 150-year old mansion in Oregon. Unlike the usual animated heroine, she’s not sugar and spice and everything nice; Coraline has a nasty side that peeks through at times (most notably in her treatment of others). Her mother (Teri Hatcher) and father (John Hodgman) are writers with little time for their daughter, so Coraline is left on her own to explore the house and its grounds.

She meets the next-door neighbor, Wybie Lovat (Robert Bailey Jr.) and his cat; the strange “sisters” (Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French) living on the lower level of the 3-apartment mansion; and the “circus man,” Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane), living on the upper storey. One day, Coraline discovers a hidden door that appears to lead nowhere; the opening has been bricked up.

That night, however, a portal opens behind the door that transports Coraline to a strange world of unsuspected wonders, where her “Other Mother” and “Other Father” are interested in only pleasing her and things are warm, beautiful, and colorful. But the time-honored cliché applies: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Selick’s animated style is almost smooth enough to be mistaken for CGI, but there’s a texture to the approach that betrays it as being a little more labor intensive (watch the cat’s fur, especially in its first scene). Kids likely won’t notice the difference, but adults will appreciate that the movie doesn’t feel like a generic clone of the animated product that studios are pumping out with regularity.

Selick’s bizarre streak is given ample opportunity to be on display. His tendencies to favor gothic backdrops and to develop his characters in such a way that they look like they have emerged from an Edward Gorey illustration makes the film potentially intense for young, nightmare-prone children. This is the basis for the PG (not G) rating.

The plot is interesting enough to involve viewers of all ages. Despite the incorporation of familiar elements, it provides some surprises and the narrative trajectory is not predictable from start to finish. The vocal characterizations, mostly provided by actors without distinctive voices, are strong.

Dakota Fanning makes the young heroine instantly likeable and Teri Hatcher has no difficulty with aspects of her role that force her into Wicked Witch territory. Selick may have incorporated a little of Fanning and Hatcher’s looks into their animated counterparts, although nothing is overt.

Like all effective fables, Coraline isn’t only for children, although it would, I suspect, work as a bed-time story. One of my biggest problems with many animated movies is that they are pitched at an intellectual level below me, but I didn’t feel that way about Coraline.

The film has been crafted with a consideration that the best family movies appeal not only to a young target audience but to the parents who accompany their offspring to theaters. And, while the 3D experience may make Coraline a little more eye-catching, it is by no means mandatory for those wishing to enjoy what this visually intriguing production has to offer.

  • A movie review by James Berardinelli

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Coraline (2009) Credits

Coraline movie poster

Coraline (2009)

Rated PG

100 minutes

Cast

Dakota Fanning as Coraline

Teri Hatcher as Mother/Other Mother

John Hodgman as Father/Other Father

Ian McShane as Mr. Bobinsky

Robert Bailey Jr. as Wybie

Jennifer Saunders as Miss Spink

Dawn French as Miss Forcible

Keith David as Cat

Written and directed by

  • Henry Selick

Based on the graphic novel

  • Neil Gaiman

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Coraline (2009) Plot

In the summer of 2007, Coraline Jones struggles to adapt to her new life after she and her workaholic parents move from Pontiac, Michigan, to the Pink Palace Apartments in Ashland, Oregon. She meets the landlady’s grandson, Wyborne “Wybie” Lovat, and a stray black cat. Later, Wybie retrieves a button-eyed ragdoll that eerily resembles Coraline from his grandmother’s trunk and gives it to her. The doll guides Coraline to a small door in the apartment’s living room that has a bricked up wall behind it.

That night, a mouse wakes Coraline up and guides her to the door, which is now a portal leading to a parallel universe that resembles the real world. Coraline then meets her Other Mother and Father, button-eyed doppelgängers of her parents who appear more attentive and caring.

She returns home the next morning, where Wybie recounts the disappearance of his great aunt. Coraline’s neighbors, Sergei Alexander Bobinsky, an eccentric Chernobyl liquidator-turned-gymnast who owns a mouse circus, and retired burlesque actresses April Spink and Miriam Forcible, cryptically warn her about imminent danger.

Despite the warnings, Coraline visits the Other World twice more. There, she, accompanied by the mute Other Wybie, is entertained by the dimension’s doppelgängers of her neighbors and meets the cat, who has the abilities to traverse between the real world and the Other World and speak in the latter. On the third visit, the Other Mother offers Coraline the opportunity to stay in the Other World permanently, in exchange for having buttons sewn over her eyes.

Horrified, Coraline tries to escape back to her world, but the Other Mother prevents her from doing so and imprisons her in a room behind a mirror. There, she meets the ghosts of the Other Mother’s victims, one of them being Wybie’s great aunt, who all call her the Beldam. They recount how the Beldam used the ragdoll, each time designed after the victim in question, to spy on them and lure them into the Other World.

After they accepted the Beldam’s offer of having buttons sewn over their eyes, she robbed them of their souls. The ghosts tell Coraline that the only way they can be freed is by retrieving the essences of the souls, which the Beldam has hidden throughout the Other World. After Coraline promises to do so, she is rescued by the Other Wybie, who helps her return home.

Upon her return, Coraline discovers that the Beldam has kidnapped her parents, forcing her to return to the Other World. Accompanied by the cat, Coraline proposes a game to the Beldam: if she can find her parents and the essences of her past victims’ souls, they will all go free; if not, she will finally accept the Beldam’s offer.

The Beldam agrees and Coraline searches for the souls’ essences, during which she discovers that the Beldam murdered the Other Wybie for his defiance. As she finds each of the soul’s essences, parts of the Other World turn lifeless, leading to the entire dimension, except for the living room, eventually disintegrating.

Coraline then encounters the Beldam in her true arachnid-like form. One of the ghosts tell Coraline that the Beldam will not honor their bargain. Using this advice, Coraline tricks the Beldam into opening the door to the real world by claiming that her parents are behind it. After Coraline distracts the Beldam by throwing the cat at her, she rescues her parents, who are trapped in a snow globe. Coraline narrowly escapes through the door with the Beldam in pursuit and severs the Beldam’s right hand in the process.

Back home, Coraline reunites with her parents, who have forgotten about their capture. That night, the ghosts appear in Coraline’s dream and thank her for freeing them, but warn her that the Beldam is still after the key needed to unlock the door.

Coraline decides to drop the key down an old well, but the Beldam’s severed hand attacks her. Wybie soon arrives and, after a struggle, destroys the hand by dropping a large rock on it. The duo then toss the key and the hand’s remnants into the well and seal it. The next day, Coraline and her parents host a party for their neighbors, including Wybie’s grandmother, whom Coraline and Wybie prepare to tell about her missing sister’s fate.

 

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Coraline (2009) Box office

According to Paul Dergarabedian, a film business analyst with Media by Numbers, for the film to succeed it needed a box office comparable to Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, which had grossed $16 million its opening weekend and ended up making more than $192 million worldwide; prior to the film’s release, Dergarabedian thought Laika Studios “should be really pleased” were Coraline to make $10 million in its opening weekend.

In its US opening weekend, the film grossed $16.85 million, ranking third at the box office. It made $15 million during its second weekend, bringing its U.S. total up to $35.6 million, $25.5 million of which came from 3D presentations. As of November 2009, the film has grossed $75,286,229 in the United States and Canada and $49,310,169 in other territories, for a total of $124,596,398 worldwide.

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Coraline (2009) Critical Response

On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 90% based on 270 reviews, with an average rating of 7.80/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “With its vivid stop-motion animation combined with Neil Gaiman’s imaginative story, Coraline is a film that’s both visually stunning and wondrously entertaining.” On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 80 out of 100 based on reviews from 38 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”. 

Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, calling it “a beautiful film about several nasty people”, as well as “nightmare fodder for children, however brave, under a certain age.” David Edelstein said the film is “a bona fide fairy tale” that needed a “touch less entrancement and a touch more … story.”

A. O. Scott of The New York Times called the film “exquisitely realized,” with a “slower pace and a more contemplative tone than the novel. It is certainly exciting, but rather than race through ever noisier set pieces toward a hectic climax in the manner of so much animation aimed at kids, Coraline lingers in an atmosphere that is creepy, wonderfully strange and full of feeling.”

 

Coraline (2009) Accolades

Awards and nominations
Award Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Animated Feature Henry Selick Nominated
American Film Institute Awards Best 10 Movies Won
Annie Awards
Best Animated Feature Nominated
Best Directing in an Animated Feature Production Henry Selick Nominated
Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production Dawn French Nominated
Best Music in an Animated Feature Production Bruno Coulais Won
Best Character Animation in an Animated Feature Production Travis Knight Nominated
Best Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Shane Prigmore; Shannon Tindle Won
Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Production Christopher Appelhans; Tadahiro Uesugi Won
Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production Chris Butler Nominated
Annecy International Animated Film Festival Best Feature – Tied Won
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Animated Feature Nominated
BAFTA Awards Best Animated Film Nominated
BAFTA Children’s Award Best Feature Film Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Animated Feature Nominated
Cinema Audio Society Awards
Lifetime Achievement Henry Selick Won
Career Achievement (sound designer/re-recording mixer) Randy Thom Won
EDA Alliance of Women Film Journalists Award
Best Animated Female (the character of Coraline) Won
Best Animated Film Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Animated Feature Film Nominated
Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing: Sound Effects, Foley, Music, Dialogue and ADR Animation in a Feature Film Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Awards Best Animated Film Nominated
People’s Choice Awards Best Animated 3D Movie of 2009 Nominated
Producers Guild of America Awards Producer of the Year in Animated Motion Picture Nominated
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards Best Animated Feature Won
St. Louis Film Critics Awards Best Animated Film Nominated
Visual Effects Society Awards
Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Claire Jennings, Henry Selick Nominated
Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Coraline – Lead Animators Travis Knight and Trey Thomas Nominated
Outstanding Effects Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture John Allan Armstrong, Richard Kent Burton, Craig Dowsett Nominated
Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Feature Motion Picture Deborah Cook, Matthew DeLeu, Paul Mack, Martin Meunier Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Animated Film Nominated

Coraline (2009) Movie Info

While exploring her new home, a girl named Coraline (Dakota Fanning) discovers a secret door, behind which lies an alternate world that closely mirrors her own but, in many ways, is better. She rejoices in her discovery, until Other Mother (Teri Hatcher) and the rest of her parallel family try to keep her there forever. Coraline must use all her resources and bravery to make it back to her own family and life.

 

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