Pretty Freaky for a Children’s Film
After noticing Jacob had reviewed Laika Studios’ most recent film, Kubo and the Two Strings, I decided it was high time we got around to reviewing Laika’s older films. What better time than during the October Review Fest? Today I’m looking at Coraline, a film that is pretty creepy and based on the Neil Gaiman book of the same title. It’s a great film for the time of year, but an excellent watch regardless.
Laika Studios has gained quite the reputation for their superb stop motion films over the years. It all started in 2009 with their release of Coraline that they really grabbed a lot of people’s attention, mine included. I love stop motion so a film like this immediately caught my interest when it came out. I grew up with the old Wallace and Gromit films and have ever since been in awe of stop motion, especially when it is done so well.
Coraline, is of course, no exception in its presentation. The jankiness that often associates itself with stop motion works plays into the presentation of Coraline. Everything gives off this creepy feeling in the film that I am absolutely in love with. In case you couldn’t tell, I think this movie is pretty great. Still, it isn’t without faults so lets get to reviewing.
I should take a moment to note that this film can be kind of creepy and could scare some kids. If you are looking for a family friendly film for younger kids, I do advise some caution because Coraline does push things a bit when it comes to your typical children’s film. Normally, wouldn’t bother mentioning this but I know adults that even get scared watching this movie.
Taking that into consideration though, my goodness does this film have one wicked aesthetic! Seriously, the whole thing just oozes style and looks absolutely stunning. Really have to give credit to Laika for their ability to breathe life into its world and characters through both the animation work and design elements. Seriously, it is impressive.
As I mentioned earlier, there are several times that the movement of things in a scene is fairly janky. This does enhance the film more than it hurts it, but you can tell that this is Laika’s first film as their future works are quite a bit more polished when it comes to this. In this way, the creepy nature of the movie covers up some flaws as you can argue that they play into the general feeling the film provides.
Unfortunately, as good as the voice performances are, a majority of Coraline’s cast just doesn’t work for me. I can tell that these are adults voicing children. Normally this sort of thing doesn’t phase me, but when I put this on in the background as I was writing up this post, it was extraordinarily noticeable and distracting. Don’t misunderstand, the acting is great, just a little nit-pick on my part regarding the child characters specifically.
The titular character has a pretty rotten mother with a pretty busy dad. They both don’t really have time for their kid which leads to the whole conflict of the movie when Coraline stumbles upon an alternate world that houses her “Other Mother.”
This other world is an Alice in Wonderland-like world where everything appears to be perfect (complete with its very own Cheshire Cat character). Coraine’s mother in this world is sweet as can be, and all of her dreams are seemingly made into reality. Of course, everything is not what it seems and Coraline isn’t an idiot and picks up on this almost immediately.
Still, who wouldn’t be swept up in the temptations provided in the other world? That’s kind of the point though. One of those, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, type stories. Life isn’t always perfect and the film captures the shattering of that illusion that kids eventually experience.
At this point I simply must bring up the soundtrack for this film. Remember when Tim Burton (who worked on this project as well) made the live-action Alice in Wonderland movie? Yeah, I know it wasn’t stellar, but it did have a great score which is eerily reminiscent of what you’ll hear in Coraline. Regardless, the music fits the film quite well here and makes it all the more enjoyable.
Of all the characters in Coraline I think the eccentric neighbors are the best. They provide some comedy and levity to the otherwise dark and dreary feeling film. Of course in the other world, they end up being the creepiest of all but that’s all the more interesting if you ask me.
Bringing up that warning I issued at the beginning, it really applies to the last portion of the film. Things turn into a nightmare-scape once Coraline learns the true nature of the other world, and in turn, Other Mother’s real motives. In this Coraline learns a life lesson and has to save both her parents and herself.
I must admit, the last act is fairly exciting. This is true even when you know how everything ends. I got distracted writing this post when I had it on in the background even! Ended up watching the whole final act without ever touching the keyboard once. Coraline is a great first effort for Laika that would set the precedence for several more films to come in later years. If you haven’t seen this one yet, I would highly recommend it.
What are your thoughts on Coraline? Be sure to share them with me in the comments below. Let me know if you liked this article and consider becoming a patron of mine so I can continue creating content like this. Just click the button below for more details. As always, thanks for reading and I hope to see you back here at Jon Spencer Reviews again soon!