Coraline is a stop motion masterpiece. The animation is captivating. The story is intriguing. There’s a talking cat.

The film is based off a Neil Gaiman book by the same title. The story follows a young girl named Coraline as she explores her new home. She finds a mysterious portal to mirror realm where everything is “perfect.” It’s all a ruse, though, and she has to complete a quest in order to save her parents and get back to the real world.

What strikes me most about Coraline is the animation style. Laika, the company behind the production, takes animation to a whole new level. The characters are emotive, they have hair, expressive eyes, and interact with the environment. This movie has plenty of rain, wind, fog, and forests of trees with blowing leaves.

In today’s CGI rattled movie scene it’s easy to dismiss the animation as unimpressive, but nearly all of the animation for this film is done by hand and in camera. If you’ve watched Coraline but haven’t watched the behind-the-scenes clips you’re missing out on the creative effort and cinematic magic that brings this story to life.

Since Coraline’s debut in 2009, Laika has gone on to make a new stop motion every few years. ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Missing Link. Each of their films is fantastically animated through hundreds of puppets and man hours.

This is one of the few films where I feel the movie version shines as brightly, if not brighter, than the book. In the original story everything is dragged out a little longer. It’s certainly and enjoyable read, but the film script manages to pare down the story to its essential parts and keeps a good flow for most of the movie.

Coraline is a tad bit scary, especially if you’re not a fan of spiders, rats, bats, or dog-bats. Yet, I would call it a great family film and a must-watch for anyone interested in animation.

Review by Phil Wels

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