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dir-scr Henry Selick
voices Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Ian McShane, Keith David, John Hodgman, Robert Bailey Jr, Aankha Neal, George Selick, Hannah Kaiser, Carolyn Crawford
release US 6.Feb.09, UK 8.May.09
09/US Universal 1h39
A whole new world: Coraline at the door
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Based on the Neil Gaiman book, this is another refreshingly dark kids' movie from Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) that never undermines its creepy story to assure undemanding audience members. And it looks utterly fantastic.
After moving to a new town, Coraline Jones (Fanning) finds a strange little door in the flat where she lives with her over-worked, busy parents (Hatcher and Hodgman). Through the door is a pathway to a parallel reality in which her parents are attentive to her every desire. The only problem is that, to stay in this dream world, she will have to sew buttons over her eyes. But there's something else about this perfect place that doesn't seem quite right, and soon she and new friend Wybie (Bailey) are caught in an adventure.
This story has a wonderful Roald Dahl tone to it, resonating with the fascination children have with sinister stories about children and the people around them. It's also packed with characters who are utterly unpredictable, and both funny and scary at the same time: Coraline's parents are echoed cleverly in her "other" mother and father, idealised versions who aren't quite what they seem. And there are also two versions of her colourful neighbours: circus maestro Bobinsky (McShane) and dramatic divas Forcible and Spink (French and Saunders). Not to mention the mangy cat (David) who knows more than he lets on.
Meanwhile, the stop-motion animation is technically gorgeous, full of witty details and clever design. The camera work is extremely eye-catching (even if it doesn't make much real use of the 3D), and several sequences are genuinely stunning to look at (such as a deranged theatre spectacle), especially when populated with such engaging, enticing characters. All of this gets increasingly eerie and frightening as it goes along, echoing the internal angst of the unhappy children.
And although it's exactly what will appeal to the kids, this black drama will probably make parents nervous. Things get genuinely unsettling as the story progresses, balanced with a grim sense of humour that keeps us chuckling nervously. And while the final message is a little simplistic (be content with your life), it's also an important note on which to end this seriously lovely film.
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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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