Envisioning a picture based on the award-winning novella by fantasy author Neil Gaiman, director Henry Selick creates a magical, stop-motion masterpiece with the deep, dark, fantastic Coraline.
In the same vein as Alice in Wonderland and Pan’s Labyrinth, Coraline juxtaposes fantasy and reality, featuring a young heroine who finds herself on a weird and wonderful sojourn from her previously mundane life. It may sound like a tale done before, but with its abundant quirks and charms, Coraline holds its own in the genre. Selick’s film proves that puppetry is not dead with it’s colorful CG-enhanced style, while also drawing thematic elements from classic stories that entice the viewer to explore his or her own inner child.
The blue-haired, brown-eyed Coraline Jones is the new girl in her lazy country town. Her parents, a writer and an editor of a gardening magazine, bore her with their neglectful, workaholic antics. Itching for adventure, she decides to explore her 150-year-old house. In her wanderings, she discovers a doorway to an alternate reality, complete with a button-eyed (literally) “Other Mother” and an “Other Father,” who seem bent on catering to her every childhood whim with their surreal machinery. Coraline is momentarily tempted to ditch her old life for this seemingly perfect dream world, but of course, she will find that everything is not all as it seems.
Bold and imaginative, the character of Coraline embodies the spirit of the film. She is the archetypal deviant child, intelligent yet naïve, with lessons to learn about life and herself. For those kids old enough to handle some of the more action-intense scenes, this PG film provides both entertainment and morals.
If there is a complaint with the film, it would have to lie in its brevity and lack of secondary character development. The fast pace of the film didn’t allow Coraline to pack an emotional punch quite up to par with the visuals. But it is a fairy tale, based on a children’s book, and to expect Shakespearean depth would be asking too much.
In a time when blasé CG family films with “been-there, done-that” writing seem to be churned out weekly, Coraline is a respite. Offered in 3D, the visual ride enhances the artistic nature of the film without feeling gimmicky. Likely to be a thrill for viewers young and old, Coraline is timeless tale with powerful testament to the spirit of childhood and imagination.