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Laramie Movie Scope: Coraline

One of the best movies of the year so far

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 9, 2009 -- “Coraline” is a film demonstrating fantastic visual imagination, combined with a rock-solid story (based on the book by Neil Gaiman) and endearing characters. It also has a heroic cat and the best-looking 3D images I've seen in years. It is the best film I've seen so far this year and should be a strong contender for the best animated film of 2009, along with the latest Pixar film, of course. If you end up watching this on TV, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. That's because the only way to see this film is on a big screen in a theater equipped with digital 3D equipment. Any other way you see this film, you are just cheating yourself.

This film provides an amazing visual experience. It is colorful, with beautiful 3D effects. This is the best 3D film I've seen since seeing “Space Station 3D” at the London Imax theater. This film is made with stop-motion animation and has a style similar to that of “Corpse Bride” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” only the story is not as grim and the color palate is much broader. The images are more cheerful. Yet, like those other films, this film has a dark side that is very intense. This is no kids movie and young children might be scared by it. There is a nightmare-like evil in this film that is sinister, frightening and beguiling at the same time. It provides a good example of how children, and even some adults, can be lured into danger by pretty images.

Fortunately, the heroine of the story is a very brave little girl who is able, with the help of a wise cat, to defeat the evil witch who rules this kingdom she has entered. Coraline Jones has just moved into an old house and she is not happy. She is spoiled and is unhappy that her parents cannot afford to give her the toys she wants. She doesn't like the neighbor boy, Wybie Lovat, or his scrawny cat, both of whom seem to follow her around. She discovers a secret door in the old house which leads into another house where she finds her “Other Mother” and her “Other Father” who look similar to her real mother and father, except they have buttons for eyes. In this other house, and the surrounding area she finds a magical garden and amazing stage and circus shows all arranged for her benefit. The food is better on the other side and her other parents are more permissive and less demanding than her real parents.

Soon, she finds out that there is an evil force behind this kingdom and it has a terrible future planned for her. She also discovers the ghosts of children who are forever lost here. Escaping this horror show is hard enough, but Coraline finds she has to do a lot more than just escape back to the real world if she wants to get her life back the way it was and to free the lonely spirits trapped in that other world. She discovers that Wybie Lovat and his scrawny cat both have unsuspected wisdom and courage. She also discovers that she herself has untapped reservoirs of courage and resourcefulness. This is a classic fantasy tale in the great tradition of the brothers Grimm and it is wonderfully visualized. This film rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2009 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)