Plot: Coraline Jones has recently moved to a new state in a strange apartment building, and she’s none too happy about it. Her workaholic parents never listen to her, there’s nothing fun for her to do and the other tenants just seems weird and off-putting. Even Wybie, the grandson of their landlady who is about Coraline’s age, annoys her. She wants excitement, adventure, fun and attentive parents, and she manages to find it behind an odd little door in her living room that leads to a version of her world that seems better in every way. When everything you could ever want is in another world, why would you ever leave?
Breakdown: Finally getting into Laika’s library, we have their first venture in Coraline. I remember watching Coraline not long after it released and enjoying it quite a bit. It was a trippy, creepy, extremely well-made and delightfully weird little movie that has always deserved more attention, even though it is Laika’s most successful film, financially, grossing $124.6 mil, and the second highest rated (Kubo and the Two Strings takes top spot there).
I’ve never read the novel on which this movie is based, written by Neil Gaiman, but from all I’ve heard about it it’s a pretty darn good adaptation of the book.
One of Coraline’s best strengths lies in how relatable it is, and yes I realize there’s a child-eating fantasy world making spider woman in it. Kids can easily relate to Coraline, especially if they have felt the sting of having to move away from friends and familiar places, have workaholic parents or both. She’s at just that right age where you still have the imagination and wonder of a child, but you’re sick of being treated as a child. That time where you can make your own fun but everything that every adult around you acts as if it’s fun seems stupid to you.
Coraline does have a bit of a crappy attitude, there’s no denying that. She’s not a bad person, she just feels like her new environment isn’t for her, she misses her friends back home, and her parents do not help at all. They’re either ignoring her or not doing anything with her/listening to her when she can get a word in edgewise. It’s not like she’s a spoiled brat either. The apartment they live in is a bit of a dump. The roof leaks, everything looks dingy and gross, there are massive cobwebs and bugs, there’s barely any non-rotting food in the fridge, the electricity is iffy, the neighbors are weird and never get her name right – it’s understandable that she’d be unhappy.
I don’t particularly like how she treats Wybie for most of the movie, especially since he doesn’t do anything to her, but that resolves by the end. I really wish we had learned more about Wybie, especially if he’s right and his name is meant to be “Why born?” Seems like a cruel thing to name a child, if that’s true.
Likewise, it’s also easy to relate to the adults. I’m not a parent, but I understand that some parents do get so wrapped up in their work that they can’t make time for their kids when they want to. It’s also understandable that all that work and stress would make them come off as cold or mean. It doesn’t make it right, but it is understandable. Work has to get done, otherwise they can’t afford rent or food.
One of the main messages of the movie is to be grateful for what you have and try to understand the other side of your relationships. To most people, this is just Coraline learning to be appreciative of her parents and understanding where they’re coming from, but it’s also about the parents learning to understand Coraline’s view a bit more and try to connect with her. In the end, it works out for both parties. Coraline being more understanding and helpful allows her to take some stress off of her parents, and then they’re able to be more understanding and mellow with her, which allows them to find more time to spend with her. It’s obviously not perfect, nothing is, but they’ve both taken great strides in improving their outlooks, lives and relationship. She’s even able to make friends with her strange neighbors and Wybie.
Of course, as per the tagline, another message is to be careful what you wish for. Even if it seems like everything you could ever want, such perfection does not come without a hefty price, if it even exists at all.
Finally, escapism is not the best option for dealing with your problems. It may be fun, relaxing and adventurous, but at the end of the day, it’s not real.
The visuals are amazing. They’re just the right blend of surreal and incredible real, if that makes any sense. I’ve mentioned before that, despite having an immense amount of respect for the craft, stop-motion tends to put me off a little. However, I really think I’m adapting to it more over the years, because I was able to appreciate the visuals much more than I did back when I first watched it (and I still really liked it back then).
Everything from the characters to the environments to the inanimate objects have a lot of personality and detail, and I kinda want to watch the movie again just to go slower and analyze the detailing work more. I especially like the contrast between how dull and washed out the colors are in the real world in comparison to the fake world. It highlights how much Coraline views her life as boring, cold, upsetting and depressing while the fake world is bright, warm, loving and fun. By the end of the movie, the colors in the real world still retain some of the duller tints, but there is obviously much more brighter colors at the forefront.
The music is unique, extremely fitting and very well made. The voice acting was also extremely well done. Specific shout outs to Teri Hatcher and Keith David for wonderful work.
Overall, if you’re in the mood for a trippy, weird, legitimately creepy at points, and incredibly interesting movie, this is a great one to check out. I highly recommend it.
Recommended Audience: The movie is rated PG, and I agree with that. It’s a high PG, though, if you ask me. Some of the imagery is pretty damn creepy, they talk about kids dying and having their eyes removed, and there’s an extended scene where a…well-endowed woman is almost entirely naked. She just has pasties and underwear on. I also just think younger kids might not be into this movie because it’s a little slower paced, dark and creepy. 10+
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