2009 in Film

What kid hasn’t, at some point or another, wished they had different parents? Don’t lie, you know you did. Probably because they didn’t buy you something you wanted, or didn’t let you stay up late, or didn’t make you the exclusive object of their rapt attention when you were clearly the most/only important thing in the entire world. (Or maybe you just actually had bad parents. How the hell should I know?)

Coraline gets her wish. She finds a little tunnel in the wall, crawls into it and finds on the other side the New Jersey Turnpike a virtual carbon copy of her own world but for one difference: her parents here are the ones she’s always wanted. They shower her with affection and attention and give her whatever she wants. Coraline could just stay there forever. Sure, the garden outside is kind of foreboding, and the talking cat issuing ominous warnings to her is pretty unsettling, but still, this place is awesome, right?

And then her Other Mother tries to sew buttons over her eyes.

Yeah, Coraline is creepy. Really creepy at times. And also an utter delight.

Even in such a banner year for animated films Coraline stands out. Exquisitely brought to life via stop-motion (I’m still stupefied we managed to get this and Fantastic Mr. Fox in one year) by Henry Selick, the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline is a visual feast. That Selick and his team managed to achieve with stop-motion scenes of such technical complexity (a less dedicated filmmaker would have gone the CGI route) is a real wonder, and well worth it as this film about a parallel universe benefits nicely from the singularly unreal, “off” look that the technique allows for.

So there’s that. And a voice cast that disappear into their characters. And characters that run the gamut from the hilarious to the macabre but either way are never less than compelling. And they propel a story forward that’s unafraid to be mature and relevant even as people who don’t know any better will call it a “kid’s movie”.

You add all that up and you get something that’s really quite wonderful. You also get one of the best films of the year.

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