Film (with rating): Coraline (PG)
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Summary: Crabby, bratty and friendless Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning), who just moved with her distracted parents to a dumpy apartment in Oregon, uncovers a secret door which leads to a parallel life much like her own, yet seemingly better. But soon, Coraline sees that the Other World is not be what she once thought, and instead might prove to be dangerous.
Review: Just because “Coraline” is a stop-motion animated film, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s kid-friendly. The film, while beautifully created by director Henry Selick,
(“The Nightmare Before Christmas”), is dark, deep and disturbing. It looks like a children’s film, but it’s not. It’s more like a child’s nightmare. I very much enjoyed this movie, but I wouldn’t let my two-year-old near the TV with it on. Heck, I wouldn’t let her watch if she was eight. The gorgeous animation actually makes the film creepier than I expected it would have, serving the movie’s plot beautifully. I loved that Coraline wasn’t a sugary-sweet heroine who must do what is right to save the day. She’s bossy and unpleasant, and real. The parents are disturbing, especially because many watching the film may see shadows of themselves there. And that’s depressing. The mom and dad are both checked-out, neglectful adults in the eyes of Coraline, but seen on a grown-up level, they could also be viewed as desperate and struggling just to make life keep moving forward. Either point of view is sad.
The Other Mother and Other Father in Coraline’s Other World are downright chill-inducing, even in the beginning. I think it has something to do with those nasty button eyes. I may have to rip all the buttons off every single article of clothing I own now and sew on snaps or something. Buttons really are starting to creep me out. At first, These Other Parents seem to be everything Coraline wants in her family: good cooks, attention givers, etc. But that’s only at first blush. Even before “Coraline” takes on a nightmarish flavor, viewers sense the danger lurking, even if it’s hiding back in some closed-off closet in our imaginations.
The voice acting was perfect and not at all overdone, making the characters engaging and real. Selick created a visual masterpiece even more gorgeous than “Nightmare,” if that’s possible. “Coraline” feels bipolar in a sense–one minute, the Other World seems comforting and loving, the next, it’s dangerous and scary. Sort of like life sometimes, huh?
Extra highlight: “Voicing the Characters”
What to serve for dinner: Chicken Marbella (cooks.com).
4 chickens, 2 1/2 lb. each, quartered
1 head garlic, peeled and finely pureed
1/4 c. dried oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
1 c. pitted prunes
1/2 c. pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 c. capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white wine
1/4 c. Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
In a large bowl, combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight. (Marinating overnight ensures the moistness of the chicken and enhances the flavor.)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken with brown sugar and pour white wine around them. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.
With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken, prunes, olives, and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.
What to talk about over dinner: What was your “ideal life” in childhood? Your ideal parents? Your ideal life now? Did you see flavors of yourself in Coraline’s parents? What does this film say about our modern-day families? Compare this to “Alice in Wonderland.” Did you like this film or “Nightmare” better? Why or why not? Contemplate the buttons. What do you think is in the stars for Dakota Fanning? Is she the next Jodie Foster? What was the saddest part about “Coraline?” The scariest?