Go along for the ride with Coraline
Special to the Sun
Henry Selick’s stop-motion animation transports the viewer into a world unlike any other. His muse is Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel, “Coraline,” a frightening fairytale darkly related to those of the Brothers Grimm. In “Coraline,” Gaiman examines the unrest known as the tweens, a time when kids look longingly toward their teens but still depend on adults to meet most of their needs.
Storytellers Gaiman and director Henry Selick, want kids to know that bad things happen to halflings straying too far from home. It isn’t that Coraline Jones (voice of Dakota Fanning) doesn’t love her parents, but that she goes looking for attention in all the wrong places.
Before moving to the isolated Oregon countryside, Coraline had close friends to occupy her time, but now she feels alone and neglected while her parents (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) toil long hours writing garden catalogs. Told to amuse herself quietly, but prohibited from making a mess, Coraline tries to befriend: neighborhood boy Wybie Lovat (Robert Bailey Jr.), the elderly, eccentric actresses (Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French) living in the basement apartment, and an extremely odd circus ringmaster (Ian McShane) residing in the upstairs flat of Coraline’s large Victorian home.
Coraline makes an instant connection to a neighborhood cat (Keith David) and is drawn to kangaroo mice that lead her into a alternate version of Coraline’s world. Here, Coraline’s alternate mother is a kitchen diva whipping up the girl’s favorite dishes while her father wrangles a garden filled with magical pumpkins and flowers. Basking in the homelife constructed around her wants by these other parents, Coraline is told she can stay forever providing she agrees to have buttons sewn over her eyes, buttons exactly like those worn by her alternate mom and dad. Coraline’s refusal to do this changes everything and threatens her existence in both realms.
Shown in 3-D wherever possible, the otherworldly visions of “Coraline” are breathtaking. Highly stylized animation creates people whose narrow shoulders give way to exaggerated hips and legs. Tender loving care is lavished on every bug, costume and set ” all handmade rather than created in-camera. Even in 2-D, the extra effort makes you instinctively want to stroke Coraline’s knit sweaters and fuzzy blankets, or try to grab a kangaroo mouse by its longtail.
Some may think the film too frightening for little kids, but the subtle story is likely to go right over their heads. Never mind. The astounding visuals are sufficient to engage minds too young to comprehend more than the snap dragons nipping at Coraline’s heels. Enjoy the ride.
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