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Heroes of the Zeroes: Coraline

by on March 13, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Coraline”
Rated PG
2009

Jittery stop-motion animation images stutter and flutter in front of us the way our dreams do. In 2009’s “Coraline,” stop-motion maven Henry Selick saw no fear in the waking-nightmare elements of Neil Gaiman’s book and created an eerily enjoyable “Being John Malkovich” of sorts for fifth-graders. Consider it also a primer on how bogeymen tend to prey upon demons within us.

Socially smothered by her mother, young Coraline finds a door to another reality and her button-eyed “other mother” — actually a lonely, hungry creature known as “the beldam.” Mothers don’t eat daughters, Coraline says … or do they?

Literary touches lurk beneath the amusing surface sights of goofy gymnasts, cartoonishly buxom starlets and attentive Schnauzers. But deep down, “Coraline” uncovers the emotional danger of parents pushing kids aside and vice versa.

When something resembling Coraline’s mother stalks her with murderous intent, it’s appropriately terrifying and reflective of a girl’s growing pains and distancing from her parents.

At the same time, “Coraline” enjoyably fluctuates between real and fantasy worlds — with Bruno Coulais’ elastic score bouncing between jazz riffs and orchestral flourishes and Coraline’s knack for exploration developing as a way for her to be heard.

Visually, “Coraline” rests between Terry Gilliam’s rudimentary “Monty Python” work and Pixar’s prestigious polish. It’s also as transfixing and tactile in two dimensions as in three, from dimples on a turkey to down on a cat. Every background is beautiful in a children’s film that’s mesmerizing and a bit bothersome at times, just as it should be.

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