What would you do if you could open a magic door to another world where everything is the way you think it should be? Where your mom likes to cook, your dad can create whatever he wants, and the annoying neighbor boy can be made significantly less so? Would you stay, or would you leave? To stay just takes two little things. Well, maybe more than just two little things…
Such is the choice confronting one Coraline Jones (that’s “Coraline,” not “Caroline”), a recent transplant from Pontiac, Michigan, to an unnamed small town somewhere that isn’t Michigan. She doesn’t get along with her parents, doesn’t like where she’s moved to, and generally hates her life, such as it is. Then she finds the door to a whole new place, and nothing is ever the same. Is what she thinks she wants her life to be worth the price she would have to pay to get it?
Created by claymation masters LAIKA entertainment out of a book by comic master Neil Gaiman, Coraline the film is easily the best film released so far in 2009, even if there hasn’t been much competition—and it may very well be the best animated film of the year. It virtually explodes with imagination, verve and a true sense of wonder about what a world freed of normal boundaries could be. Even more astounding is that every single bit of the movie was made by hand, shot by hand, and then shot again at an ever so slightly different angle to produce the 3-D version of the film. If there is a 3-D reel showing anywhere near you I highly recommend seeing the movie that way. I don’t think I have seen any movie before that makes such incredible use of the visual field that a well-designed 3-D system offers.
That being said, I will also say that you shouldn’t take any little kids to see this movie. I’d make the cut off around 10, or maybe a really emotionally secure 9-year-old, as it is a very scary movie. Not horror in the style of, say, Friday the 13th, but it is steeped with real fears for our heroine. There is also a brief, “artistic” nude moments.
But if you can approach life in general with an open eye and mind to the fantastical, Coraline will sate your desire for a movie that not only doesn’t insult you with dumb pop-culture comedy or poop jokes, but will push you maybe just a bit beyond what you thought before.
Correction: An earlier version of this review referred to the title character as “Coraline James.” It is “Coraline Jones.”