After her family moves from Michigan to Oregon, 11 year old Coraline Jones (voice of Dakota Fanning) is befriended by a local boy close to her age, Wybie Lovat (Robert Bailey Jr.) and visits her older neighbors, eccentric British actresses Miss Spink and Forcible (Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French) as well as the even more eccentric Russian Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane). After these encounters, Coraline seriously doubts that her new home can provide anything truly intriguing to her......but it does, when she walks through a secret door in her new home and discovers an alternate version of her life. On the surface, this parallel reality is eerily similar to her real life - only much better. But this wondrously off-kilter, fantastical adventure turns dangerous, when her counterfeit other mother (voice of Teri Hatcher]) tries to keep her forever.
Review by Louise Keller:
A whimsical fantasy created in stop animation and set in alternate universes, Coraline is a visual treat certain to whisk every age into a magical wonderland. Firstly, there are the imaginative creative aspects of the story in which a little girl with bright blue hair finds a perfect world on the other side of a miniature secret door. Everything is right in this world - or is it? Parents that are too busy are a thing of the past, eccentric neighbours become fascinating artistes and the unkempt garden is a magical paradise filled with multi coloured trees, flowers and harmonious giant flying insects. The power of Henry Selick's adaptation of Neil Gaiman's book is that it is grounded in a reality we all understand. A reality in which an ever-busy family has no time to devote to important things. But there's a catch. Perfection is not always as it seems at first glance. Nor is the simple button found on everyday garments. And such is the case in this delightful tale that elevates our spirits and takes us into a whirlwind of an adventure every bit as crazy as Alice discovered in her Wonderland.
The upside-down world into which Coraline, with her upturned nose and big brown eyes finds herself is one that is contrary to the sombre, lonely reality since her family moved into the out of town Pink Palace Apartments. Her 'other mother' cooks delicious meals, while her playful 'other father' writes songs and plays the piano with huge fake hands. The spindly-legged upstairs neighbour with the handlebar moustache has a band of performing mice, while the two 'ding bats' downstairs with their collection of sweet departed dogs stuffed on a wall, are now theatre performers conquering the high trapeze. From being irritating, the boy next door is now unable to speak and his black, blue-eyed cat is now a heroic creature, ready to help Coraline conquer her adversaries and find her lost parents.
Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders steal the film as the voices of Miss Forcible and Miss Spink, the oversized, over-theatrical darlings who adore dogs and whose scene in which they portray a mermaid and Botticelli's Venus is a riot. Dakota Fanning is the perfect Coraline, a frustrated youngster looking for attention, and Teri Hatcher gets her talons into the roles of the two mothers - real and otherwise. There are some fabulously inventive ideas - like the toy gravy train that steams around the table delivering gravy on demand and the chandelier that lowers to double as a mango milkshake machine. I also love the scenes when Coraline finds herself in a web of deceit, which is in fact a giant spider-web-like tunnel. It's clever and creative and the storytelling never suffers at the hands of the marvellous special effects. Selick shapes and moulds his tale with such creative vision, there's plenty to relive in our waking and sleeping hours alike. The 3D effects work beautifully, effortlessly tugging us in and out of this magical world.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's absolutely fabulous darlings, with Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French adding their considerable vocal talents as the bickering, voluptuous eccentric Brit actresses Miss Spink and Forcible - both past their prime but ignoring that sad fact. They play a small but consequential part in the proceedings, as Coraline, beautifully and enchantingly voiced by Dakota Fanning, is drawn into the adventure of her life through that small but powerful trapdoor in the new family home. The new family home being one of three apartments in Pink Apartments, where the above mentioned ex-actresses and Mr Bobinsky (Ian McShane in top form) of circus fame also live.
This riveting fairy story is told in stop motion animation, which in 3D is rather like being there. The visual invention is staggering, ranging from fabulous fantasy to eerie scary. The main garden blooming scene, for example, is a masterpiece of design and animation, an explosion of the imagination. But there are many, many magic moments which children will enjoy as spectacular storytelling and adults will enjoy as an unexpectedly sophisticated cinematic pleasure.
Henry Selick's adaptation and direction enlarges on the imagination-firing novel and creates a complete world where our young heroine fights her battle with us firmly behind her. When she discovers that in this other home, her other mother is not quite the model mum she had imagined, we are as worried as she is. And when the awful truth dawns, that her 'other mother' is the exact opposite of good, our dread is complete. With the iconic, harmless looking four-hole button taking on an evil new dimension, Selick manages to do for buttons what Hitchcock once did for birds. Beware the buttoned eyes!
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VOICES: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Ian McShane, Keith David
PRODUCER: Claire Jennings, Mary Sandell
DIRECTOR: Henry Selick
SCRIPT: Henry Selick (novel by Neil Gaiman)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pete Kozachik
EDITOR: Christopher Murrie, Ronald Sanders
MUSIC: Bruno Coulais, They Mich Be Giants
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Henry Selick
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 6, 2009 (2D and 3D)