Published Feb 05, 2009Coraline may be destined to become a classic children's film. Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman, and directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), Coraline is a strange, deceptively simple cautionary tale that feels like a mix between Alice in Wonderland and The Twilight Zone. Filmed using stop-motion animation, and presented in 3-D, Coraline is a technical wonder but its success is mostly due to a consistently eerie atmosphere and the ingenuity of the storytelling.
Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is in need of attention. Her neglectful parents are occupied with work and her new neighbours are self-obsessed eccentrics. Stuck inside on a rainy day, Coraline discovers a small, locked door in the new house. At night, the door opens, revealing a strange tunnel beyond. She crawls through only to find herself back in the same house, though things are oddly different. Her parents are singularly focused on making Coraline's every wish come true, and they have black buttons for eyes. Everything seems to be an idyllic mirror image of her real life, until the fantasy world takes a dark turn.
Gaiman's story, and Selick's adaptation, sits comfortably within the realm of great children's literature, borrowing classic tropes while adding a unique perspective to the genre. Though some parts might be a little scary for kids (especially in 3-D), historically the best kids films have had dark themes and at least a few frightening, eye-shielding moments — Return to Oz, anyone?
Bolstered by the vocal performances of Teri Hatcher and the great Ian McShane, with animation that looks like Postman Pat on drugs, Coraline is a suspenseful, unique film deserving of the audience it will no doubt attract. (Alliance)