Coraline is an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s award-winning novel. Directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), it’s the first stop motion film shot in 3D.
Young Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) lives a dull, unsatisfying life with her overworked parents. One day she discovers the entrance to a parallel universe. Inhabited by Coraline’s “Other Mother” (Terri Hatcher), the parallel dimension is a hyper-sensual version of Coraline’s home. Everything in “Other Mother’s” world is colourful, tasty and fun. People have buttons instead of eyes, cats talk and mice perform carefully choreographed circus acts. As you can probably guess, however, Coraline soon finds out that not everything is as it seems.
Coraline is a fantasy adventure with slight undertones of black comedy and horror. It’s scary, but any child capable of sitting through The Nightmare Before Christmas will be able to enjoy it. Buttons stitched to eyes and mouths sewn shut sound like unsettling concepts, but Selick presents them in the friendliest manner possible. The movie is littered with quirky jokes that play off the dark themes and remind you that what you are watching is supposed to be fun.
It’s clear that Selick paid close attention to every detail of the figurines and scenery. Two hundred and fifty people worked on the Coraline dolls alone. The 3D visuals exist to enhance the textures and colour of the film, rather than to have things jump out from the screen at the audience. Coraline is by no means a landmark in animation, but the fact that something interesting is always happening on screen makes it a constant joy to watch.
The story concepts are simple but executed well, leaving Coraline with a fairy tale feel. Selick and Gaiman both do a great job of presenting supernatural ideas without the need for reasoning. In fact, the lack of explanation brings an added wonder and mystery to the movie.
With stunning animation, a unique soundtrack and marvellous story telling, Coraline proves that stop motion animation is capable of giving computer graphics a run for its money.
Published in Volume 63, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 5, 2009)