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CoralineDirected by: Henry Selick Cast (voice): Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, David Keith, Ian MacShane Time: 1 hr 20 min Rating: PG

Plot: A young girl finds a hidden door in her new home and finds that it leads to an alternate, seemingly happier, version of her own life.

Who’s It For? I think Neil Gaiman summed it up nicely when he said Coraline was for “brave kids,” because this is a spooky movie. Adults will love it for the sublime artistry of it, but it’s not an automatic go-to for families.

Expectations: I expected great things. The previews looked beautiful and the buzz was strong.


Actors: Dakota Fanning as Coraline: Fanning voices this wonderful character with verve. Every sigh, moan, shriek, and laugh is pitch perfect. I can’t give her a perfect score, because she didn’t do quite as well as Hatcher. Hatcher gets the A+ with Fanning coming in with a very close A. Score: 9

Teri Hatcher as Coraline’s mother and The Other Mother: Holy crap, Hatcher is phenomenal in this movie! I’m not a big fan of Desperate Housewives and though I expected to adore Dakota Fanning, I had zero expectations that I’d love Hatcher as much as I did. This woman was born to do the voices for animated movies—it should be her fulltime gig. Hatcher embodies the Other Mother’s creepy, arachnoid persona so entirely, she easily stole every scene. Score: 10

Keith David as The Cat: David’s voice is satiny smooth, almost decadent. He delivers every line with a truly feline smoky purr. David is delicious as The Cat, who fills the important role of Coraline’s cryptic guide through the horrors of the alternate world. Score: 9

Talking: The dialogue isn’t as strong as the rest of the film. It isn’t weak by any means, but it’s obvious that the filmmakers put all of their effort into the sights and only kept one eye on the character exchanges. Still, the characters are well-written and it’s still fun to watch them live their kooky, scary lives. Score: 8

Sights: Sublime, gorgeous, unbelievable. The attention to minor details is as striking as the bigger, grander scenes. And the 3D is some of the best I’ve seen—see this movie in 3D. Score: 10

Sounds: The soundtrack is incredible, weird, haunting, original, you name it, it somehow captures it. We even get a cheery song called “Coraline” from They Might Be Giants. The music and sounds in this film are as multi-layered as everything else. Score: 10


Best Scene: It’s difficult to pick one, because the whole movie is almost one long best scene. This film is a stunner.

Ending: Scary as all heck. I’m an adult and I still found myself grinding my teeth and shielding my eyes.

Questions: How in the world was there no CGI in that film? It is an astonishing feat—in fact, I’m not even sure I believe them. They can’t be telling the truth!

Rewatchability: Absolutely, yes. Knowing that every single character, scene, and set was meticulously handcrafted ups the watchability factor exponentially. You will want to marvel over this movie.


Coraline had its world premiere in downtown Portland three blocks from where I live—and our free-spirited city put its own spin on the typical “big Hollywood premiere.” First of all, it rained on Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher, which is the Great Northwestern version of the welcome wagon; secondly, the round of well-earned props prior to the start of the film from Governor Kulongowski, Travis and Phil Knight, and the director of Coraline, Henry Selick created an atmosphere of joy and accomplishment. It was one big celebratory love-fest.

At the after-party, the animators proudly showed off the sets, the dolls, and the costumes, and giddily explained to passersby the might behind all the magic. The entire film was very obviously a labor of love for everyone involved and it was wonderful to be a part of it and bear witness to its début. The Willamette Weekly reported that Phil Knight has put the LAIKA studio on hold to see how its first film performs, and it would be a true loss to the artistry of filmmaking if Coraline was its only production.

Final Score: 9/10

Pink Panther 2

32nd Portland International Film Festival - PIFF