Coraline is based upon Neil Gaiman's award-winning 2002 children's book and is written and directed by Henry Selick of Nightmare Before Christmas fame. It’s the first feature film from the Portland, Oregon animation studio, Laika. It appeals to all who followed Alice down a rabbit hole or stepped with Lucy through a closet door to visit Narnia. Being a fan of all things Gaiman, I picked up the book last Summer and took it with me on the MegaBus to Chicago. I handed it off to my then 11 year old son who devoured it.
My Other Mother Loves Me...
Coraline (Dakota Fanning) is a child who has just moved with her parents to an old house in a desolate area. She wanders the sparse neighborhood, ultimately running into Wybie (Wylie Bailey Jr.), a boy hoping to spook her. This is a new character added for the movie and really bothered my son, who apparently is a purist. Get used to it kid!
Because Coraline’s parents (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman), both writers and constantly at their computers, she’s often robbed of their attention. So Coraline's left to her own discoveries. She finds a small door in the living room and opens it, finding a brick wall. But at night, in her dreams the door opens -- and Coraline crawls through a tunnel to discover the Other World where another set of parents adore her and dote on her. Her other father talks and plans things to do with Coraline; her other mother fixes her beautiful meals. Things are definitely greener on this other side. But the old expression, "Beware what you wish for" will soon find it's way into Coraline's vocabulary.
There’s an impish cat (Keith David) and a few goofy characters that inhabit the story. But they're outnumbered by gruesome witches and abnormalities they create in Coraline’s parents and others.
A Modern Fairy Tale
Coraline comes closer to the spirit of the traditional European fairy tale than any other film, animated or otherwise, in recent memory. It's dark, very very dark. It's scary and if your child is sensitive or scares easily, it could scare the living crap out of them and bore fresh new nightmares into their little heads. It's rated PG, but use your best judgement. My 12 year old son has read the book, loves A Nightmare Before Christmas and has my and his Mother's twisted, sometimes dark love of art, books, games, etc. My seven year old daughter however, would be completely traumatized by it! She'll see it in a few years, at home, safely under the covers of a blanket, with a trembling finger poised over the pause button.
Stereoscopy (3D To You & Me)
I wasn't incredibly excited about the 3D. The frame lag on 3D is bad enough with good eyes, my astigmatism plays havoc when I've seen those 3D I-Max movies. It felt as if my eyes were melting out of their sockets. (I did get a slight migraine watching it, but it was well worth it.) Reading about the film, I was excited that Selick wanted to use the stop-motion, 3D technology to give the movie depth, rather than just shove scary things into the audience's faces, and he did just that. You would actually be missing out on aspects and some depth of the film by not seeing it 3D. The glasses were very cool and hip as well. We kept ours and took a picture of them sitting on top of our copy of the book. (See above) Cool huh?
On his blog, John Hodgman (best known as PC in the MAC v PC Mac ads) revealed why he took the role:
BECAUSE I LIKE HANGING OUT WITH GENIUSES
ONLY NOW, however, two years after I sat in that tiny room, do I realize that THEY ACTUALLY MADE A MOVIE, and it is beautiful and creepy and brilliant.
I've been a fan of stop motion since the old Ray Harryhausen movies and any excuse to see one and I'm there! This film, though dark, was masterfully and lovingly crafted. I don't think I'll say that about Paul Blart when I see it with my daughter. (I'm sure I'll probably laugh more though!) Oh, be sure to stay for the credits, you'll enjoy it.
Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't post the picture of myself my son made on the Corlaine site. Very funny but kind of creepy! LOL