Website: Coraline official site
Starring: voices of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, and Ian McShane
My Review: OK, I’ll admit it; like most other late 20-somethings, I decided to see Coraline because of my love for The Nightmare Before Christmas (which I loved way back in the 1990’s, before Hot Topic was even a glimmer in every emo teenager’s eye). Plus I got to wear super-cool 3D glasses (see above). But despite having the same director and a similar artistic design (no, Tim Burton has nothing to do here), Coraline is missing most of the elements that made Nightmare so magical, like memorable characters, a unique story, and a hero you want to root for.
The story is somewhat reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland: Young Coraline is bored with life in her dreary new home with parents who are too busy to pay her any attention. So when she discovers a small door that leads to a parallel world where everything is brighter and there’s a second set of parents who dote on her, Coraline thinks she’s found paradise. But of course nothing is as good as it seems, and when her Other Mother decides she should stay in the other world forever, Coraline has to fight for her freedom and to save her real parents.
While the stop-motion animation is a marvel, and some of the 3D elements are particularly impressive (like the mouse circus in the other world), the bottom line is that the movie is kind of dull. The house that Coraline’s family moves into is filled with what are meant to be outrageous characters, like the aging starlets voiced by the British comedy duo French & Saunders, but none of them are outrageous enough to stay with you once the movie is over. And most of the time Coraline’s parents come across not as busy and preoccupied, but neglectful and mean, and Coraline herself as a whiny brat; a new character not in the original book by Neil Gaiman is added to the movie for her to be friends with, but all she does is scold and insult him throughout the film. So by the time the movie came to its big climax (and it’s a slow buildup, at that), I didn’t particularly care if Coraline vanquished her evil foe or not. Maybe some time trapped in the other world would improve her attitude and make her real parents stop being such selfish jerks.
Bottom Line: If you’re a huge fan of the original book or of stop-motion animation, then you may want to check it out in the theater. If not, just wait to rent it. And if you have kids, think twice about letting them watch it; there are a lot of dark elements, and it’s a very slow-moving story that will just bore young children. Just because it’s animated doesn’t mean it’s a kids’ movie.
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