Kids today can be cruel, rude little brats that have no respect for any form of higher power, especially their parents. That is why “Coraline,” the newest stop motion animated film from director Henry Selick (“The Nightmare Before Christmas”), is such a breath of fresh air.
In this day and age, we movie lovers are often forced to sit through sub par animated features like “Kung Fu Panda” and “Bolt.” Most film studios feel that the animated movie market needs to be dominated by family friendly cartoons because kids are the target demographic for these types of movies. This isn’t to say that “Coraline” wasn’t made with children in mind; it is just intended for slightly more intelligent children who aren’t bothered if they get a little scared while watching a movie.
The film’s plot starts off fairly simple. The main character is Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning), a very angry pre-teen who has just been uprooted from her home in another state and moved to a very quirky apartment complex located literally in the middle of nowhere. She is neglected by her parents, has no friends to speak of, and gets poison oak all over her hands the first time she goes out to explore the woods around her house. She reluctantly befriends a young boy by the name of Wybie, short for Whyborn, a very bizarre little boy who rides around on his bicycle wearing a helmet that is a cross between an old welder’s mask and a microscope, as well as his pet cat.
The film features other quirky characters, such as the old stage actresses, who live in the apartment below Coraline, and the Russian mouse-circus owner, who lives in the apartment above her, but the real meat of the story comes when Coraline discovers a small door in the living room of her apartment that leads to another world. The new world is similar to the real world, except that everything seems to be exactly what Coraline would want her world to be like.
Her parents, known in the second world as her “Other Mother” and “Other Father,” become loving and devoted to her; they fix her favorite meals at dinner time and they play games as a family after the dinner. The only real difference that exists in this world, aside from it being everything that Coraline wants, is that everyone has buttons for eyeballs. However, that is of no concern to Coraline; she just wants to give up living in her world and stay in the “other world” forever, or that is until she is informed by her Other Mother that she would have to replace her eyes with buttons. Then Coraline starts to wonder if this other world is all its cracked up to be.
The rest of the story is fairly easy to figure out from that point on, but it does not change the fact that this movie is one of the best examples of the type of animated features that film companies should be making, along with the ones exclusively for young kids. “Coraline” is a darkly imaginative film that is not for children under the age of ten, but that does not mean that it is not a charming film. The stop motion animation is absolutely stunning to look at, the writing is very sharp and witty, and the characters are engaging if not just a bit cold natured– Coraline’s parents often tell her to leave them alone so that they can work on their vegetable calendar.
The most important thing here is that the filmmakers are not scared to present the main character as imperfect. Coraline is shown to be a rather bratty kid who thinks she has to get her way or the world may very well end. I think this is a rather important theme for younger kids to see in movies that are geared towards them; if they are just shown really cute or silly images then they will develop a skewed vision of the real world. There is also the fact that the parents are shows as being neglectful and uncaring towards Coraline’s feelings, so the film is also very even handed.
Going to see this film was a very special event for me. I found the movie to have a wonderful cast of characters and drop dead gorgeous animation, and to be very moving without being overwhelmingly sentimental. If you have a chance to go see it in the theater, drop everything you are doing and do so. “Coraline” is one of those movies that needs to be seen on the big screen.