Coraline, the new film by innovative stop-action animation artist Henry Selick (director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach) turns Neil Gaiman’s disturbing children’s fantasy into a brightly-colored spectacle that jumps off of the screen. Literally.
Coraline is the first stop-action animated film to be presented in 3D. It is also the first 3D movie that doesn’t depend on jumpy “in-your-face” effects and annoying, repetitive tricks. Henry Selick uses the 3D animation effect to bring his audience into Coraline’s world, creating a surreal atmosphere that moves from charming to spooky as the story continues.
Eleven-year-old Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) moves with her parents to a new town where she spends most of her time bored, searching for an adventure. Her busy parents are constantly trying to keep her out of their hair, and her eccentric neighbors are annoying.
When Coraline finds a small door in one of the rooms of her house she thinks that she might have found the adventure that she had been looking for. Despite the strange warnings that she receives from various characters about the sinister nature of her house, she finds a way to go through the door. Inside, Coraline discovers a much-improved version of her world.
Along with a better house, better neighbors and better food, Coraline finds a better version of her mother. Her “other mother” (Teri Hatcher) is fun-loving and attentive. Her only strange flaw is the black buttons that she has sewn over her eyes. Only after the other mother demands that Coraline sew the buttons into her eyes as well does Coraline realize that this world might not be as perfect as it seems.
Coraline captures Henry Selick’s recognizable artistic style and modernizes it for a new group of movie-goers. While the movie closely followed Neil Gaiman’s fairytale, it didn’t manage to establish as much of the suspense and intensity that was present in the book. Selick also added a new character, Wybie Lovat (Robert Bailey, Jr.), a neighbor who drops hints about the strange history of the house and helps Coraline talk through her understanding of what is going on.
For audience members who haven’t read the book, Wybie serves as a way to fill in some of the background information needed to understand the story.
Coraline is the ideal animated movie-appropriate for younger audiences but still interesting enough to entertain older viewers as well. It’s a fresh, unusual fairytale filled with twists and surprises. With an engaging plot told with extraordinary animation, Coraline is the perfect addition to Henry Selick’s impressive repertoire.