Dakota Fanning (voice)
Teri Hatcher (voice)
Jennifer Saunders (voice)
Dawn French (voice)
Keith David (voice)
Ian McShane (voice)
Based on a novel by Neil Gaiman, Coraline was a 2009 stop-motion animated feature from director Henry Selick. Released in 3D, the film made the most of the revived gimmick and it was a bigger hit at the box-office than expected.
Selick being the quiet maestro behind Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, there was a good chance that Coraline would impress animation-wise and, indeed, this was a gorgeous-looking movie with excellent stop-motion work, stylish gothic visuals and a colorful palette. This earned the film several Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations, and rightly so. Coraline tells the story of the titular little girl (voiced by Dakota Fanning) who moves into a new house in a new neighbourhood with her work-focused parents who don't exactly make her the centre of attention.
Coraline's Alice-like curiousness leads her to uncovering a small door in her bedroom that appears to lead to another dimension, one not unlike her own world but with a few key differences: her parents and eccentric neighbors focus on her and nothing else, plus they happen to literally have buttons for eyes. Initially, Coraline embraces this other world, that seems a lot more inviting than her own dreary reality, but things take a worrying turn when her "other parents" demand for her to accept having buttons sewn where her eyes are.
This is a much darker film than you'd expect with the whole buttons-for-eyes thing a constant threat to the main characters and some surprisingly gruesome imagery thrown in. That said, there's also a lot of fun to be had with the film's goofier characters and its twisted sense of humour. Coraline's neighbors Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane), Miss Spink (Jennifer Saunders) and Miss Forcible (Dawn French) all provide some welcome randomness (mice circuses, stuffed dogs, near-nude theatrical performances) throughout. They're a likeable bunch and there's a point to them being there but, to nitpick slightly, it would have probably been better had their scenes been blended into the story more organically, rather than just having Coraline going to their homes back and forth.
This is, in fact, the film's only (minor) flaw: it feels a tad distracted at times and parts of it (ghost children etc.) don't feel quite as necessary as they should feel. Everything else is so good, though, that this is unlikely to tarnish such a beautifully animated, emotionally rich and charming film.
With Coraline, Henry Selick perfectly captures the unsettling tone of Neil Gaiman's work and delivers another stop-motion gem that, while it might be a bit too scary for younger viewers, is simply a treat that's well worth revisiting.
Just very good.