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Coraline is a Delightful Nightmare

Coraline crosses into the other world through a long florescent tunnel.
Coraline's other mother, with her big smile and button eyes.
Coraline and Whybie gaze down the deep well in horror.

Dreams are fleeting, irrational experiences that distort, compress and bend reality in innumerable ways, often defying their own internal, transitory laws even as they are defined. In spite of these mercurial qualities, dreams can be both a sweet release from the physical world, and a chilling reminder of the realities we seek to avoid. Coraline too, reminds us of uncomfortable truths while offering us an escape… into the heart of a child.

As the film begins, we meet Coraline Jones, a confident yet solitary young girl and her distant parents as they settle in to an old house. Coraline encounters quite a few odd characters in and around her new home, but has a hard time settling in. When she discovers a portal to a magical world where her other mother and father meet her every need, she’s overjoyed… until they make an oddly disturbing request.

The visuals on display in Coraline have a singular style that benefits from both old school stop motion and newfangled computer animation techniques, both are used to full effect. The 3D presentation is also executed flawlessly, but seems oddly unnecessary in this otherwise engaging experience. That Neil Gaiman’s timeless book gets no mention in the marketing is more than a little odd, but one would imagine he hardly needs additional praise for his eerily boundless imagination.

Feel free to take all but your youngest to this modern fairy tale, but like the best of childrens’ films, you have to be grown up to fully appreciate its worth.

Written by in February of 2009. Last edited March 2019.

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