PLOT: When Coraline Jones moves into a strange house, her parents seem too busy to enjoy it with her. At her father’s request, she embarks on her own adventure throughout the house. Along the way, she finds a door that leads to nowhere… or does it? Soon, she finds a magical place where her “other mother” seems to be perfect, aside from the creepy buttons sewed into her eyes. Even though Coraline enjoys her time in this new world, there is something sinister about it. And once she finds out the truth, it may already be too late, as the button-eyed mother seems to have plans to keep her new daughter forever.
What a beautiful world Henry Selick has created with CORALINE. It is part nightmare, part fantasy and a whole lot of imagination in between. Based on Neil Gaiman‘s book of the same name, this story of a young girl who wishes for a happier life is a rich and darkly wonderous fairy tale. From the opening credits to a very creepy and almost horrific finale, there is much to love. With that said, while the film can be pretty scary, I think that it is safe for most children. But the truth is, it is just as compelling for adults as the young ones. I guess it is no surprise that the director of A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS would once again tread in a kind of nightmarish world, and frankly, I’m glad he did.
The story begins as a young girl named Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) moves into a new place with her mom and dad (played respectively by Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman). As any child would know, moving is not an easy thing to do, especially in your early tweens. You have to say goodbye to all your friends and somehow start over again. For Coraline, it is especially difficult because her parents are much too busy with work to pay any attention to her. Her father suggests that she investigate the house, and as bored as she is, it seems like a good idea. As she moves throughout, she discovers a secret door that is just big enough to crawl through. After pleading with her mother to open it, she finally gets her way, only to discover it leads to a brick wall. But looks can be deceiving, especially in a fairy tale.
One night, a couple of mice lead Coraline to the door, which now opens to a mystical looking tunnel. It is there she discovers her “perfect family”. This includes a loving mother, a doting dad and even the one “friend” she made in the real world, who seems much better here. But of course, there is a very dark side to this dream world, one which wouldn’t leave the young lady living happily ever after. While this is a common theme for movies and books of this ilk, I found CORALINE to be immensely unique. You could say there are elements of ALICE IN WONDERLAND, even the doorway to the other world reminded me of WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE. But with all that, it still felt fresh and original and yes… scary. In fact, this film would have been a perfect horror film. It certainly is creepy and suspenseful, but again, if you know your child is frightened by the monsters on “Sesame Street”, then this is definitely not the movie to take them to. But for most children, they will probably come out unscathed.
I saw CORALINE in 3D and I am really liking Real3D more and more. While this spectacle doesn’t quite leap out at you as much as say, MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D did, I enjoyed the experience. But was it necessary? Not really. Actually, the person I was with felt that it diminished the color palette of the film. While I cannot agree or disagree being I never took my glasses off, I did find that it made for an impressive theatrical experience. It is only occasionally that the effects “jump” out at you, but it works rather well in the final sequence. This is one film that will be just fine in its regular 2D format, because it will look fantastic either way.
It is not every day that a family film is able to treat the audience as well as this does. Sure it is beautiful to look at and the animation is fantastic, but almost more importantly, it isn’t condescending to the audience. The problems that Coraline has are universal, and she makes good and bad choices without winking to us to let us know exactly what we should think. Here we have a near perfect family movie that is utterly stunning to look at, with some incredible designs, but it is also a very thoughtful and engaging story. And I also found the music in the film to be utterly brilliant. Every musical selection fits perfectly into this elaborately eerie journey. I have little doubt that we have one of next year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Animated Film with Coraline. My rating 9/10 -- JimmyO