I have probably mentioned many times that I am not the biggest fan of animated films, though I gave in and watched Coraline. The film is directed by Henry Selick, who is best known for directing the Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, and less notably James and the Giant Peach. The film is based on a 2002 graphic novel by Neil Gaiman, whose previous novel, Stardust, was adapted into a feature length film starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Unlike many recent animated films, Coraline does not have the star power in terms of voice actors. The film uses the vocal talents of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman (most recognizable for personifying PC in the Apple commercials). Coraline is an enjoyable film that hinges on the audience empathizing with its heroine, the young Coraline. It does not bring anything new to the world of animated films, but its dark themes and imagery make Coraline a deserving nominee for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards.
The young Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) has just moved to the Pink Palace Apartments with her withdrawn parents. The other two apartments are inhabited by two former actresses (voiced by comedy duo Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French) and a one-time Russian acrobat (voiced by Ian MacShane). Her mother Mel (Teri Hatcher) and father Charlie (John Hodgman) are consumed by writing a gardening catalog and pay little attention to their daughter. She is encouraged to explore their new home and discovers a small locked door in their living room. When she convinces her mother to unlock it she only finds a brick wall. Later that night she is awoken by a mouse that leads her to the door that now leads her to the Other World. In this alternate universe she finds Other Mother and Other Father that are adoring parents who dote on their daughter. She wants to stay in this new world, but a talking cat (voiced by Keith David, in a role that reminds me of the Cheshire Cat) tells her that her own world is better and safer. The Other Mother and Other Father have buttons for eyes, and they tell Coraline that she will have to give up her eyes to remain with them.
Roger Ebert suggested, in his three star review of Coraline, that "Coraline is an unpleasant little girl. It would be cruel to send Pippi Longstocking down that tunnel, but Coraline deserves it." Maybe I misunderstood the film, but I only found her to be a neglected child looking for attention from her parents. The climax of the films reminds me of Beetlejuice, which seems apt considering how closely Henry Selick has worked with Tim Burton in the past. The film does wrap up far too neatly, which bothers me, though I understand the necessity, owing to the fact that animated films are most aimed at younger audiences. Overall Coraline is better than some animated films that I have seen this year, though it does not come close to Fantastic Mr. Fox in my opinion.
My rating: 3 stars out of 4.