Movie Mama Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Recommended For: Middle school age and above
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Ian McShane, Jennifer Saunders, Keith David and John Hodgman
Directed By: Henry Selick
Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, scary images, some language and suggestive humor.
Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning), a young girl who has just moved into the quirky Pink Palace Apartments, is desperate to find a bit of adventure. Her workaholic parents ignore her, and her new neighbor Wybie Lovat (Robert Bailey Jr) annoys her to death. Her other neighbors, Miss Spink (Jennifer Saunders) and Miss Forcible (Dawn French), as well as Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane), offer some entertainment, but what really intrigues Coraline is a tiny locked door in her apartment. Through it she finds a parallel world where her “other mother” (Teri Hatcher) cooks fabulous meals, and her “other father” (John Hodgman) plays with her all day long. She ventures back to this world several times and finally decides she would rather stay there forever. But in order to stay, Coraline must make a hair-raising sacrifice, one she would never succumb to, no matter how wonderful the world seems to be.
Coraline is a typical 11-year-old, spunky and eager to experience the world. She is overbearing at times, but only because she lacks much-needed attention from her parents. Pre-teens will relate to her circumstances and find her an intriguing character. Director Henry Selick paints a depressing world around Coraline, but the incredible stop-animation makes her world beautiful and exciting for the viewer. I loved all the Michigan references, since Plugged In Parents is based there! However, even with superb voice talent and genius animation, the plot is still a bit soft.
In the beginning, Coraline’s parents seem an awful sort, the kind you want to run away from. But we find out later that their lack of interest in Coraline is a phase of sorts. They are going through a financial hardship and are focusing on a project that will hopefully improve their way of life. Coraline, as a youngster, simply cannot grasp that her parents are working so hard just for her–to make her life better. Most children have experienced this sort of thing, especially lately with the economy doing so poorly. I see this as a relevant topic, and urge parents to use Coraline as a discussion starter.
Coraline learns that no matter what hardships her parents are facing, she would rather be with them and experience genuine love, than trade them for material things, which are never fulfilling enough.
Even though I think kids across the world are going to adore Coraline, there are a few things I must mention. The second half of the film contains some truly frightening images for young ones. Though the plot line softens near the end, the realistic animation may trigger nightmares in some. Even I found myself tense a few times!
Mr. Bobinsky’s large, round tummy is often bare, showing a disgusting layer of belly hair. He’s always doing acrobatics and the camera just so happens to zero in on his crotch more than I’d like. At one point, he almost does the splits on a pair of pruning shears.
Miss Spink and Miss Forcible are retired British actresses who have a shelf full of their deceased, stuffed Scottish Terriers. They’re the type of old women that have huge busts and rear ends, and faces that make you shudder, but they still consider themselves divas. This wouldn’t be so bad until one of them appears naked on screen for quite a few minutes. And I’m not talking half naked, I’m talking 99.9% naked. The director threw it in for the shock factor–to make us cringe and squirm in our seats. I’m sorry it was there and feel awful for the thousands of kids who will have to sit through it.
Other than that, Coraline attempts to use a stick as a dowsing rod to find a hidden well. Fortunes are told, a cat kills a mouse, and a few mild curses like “jerk wad” and “puss wuss” are tossed about.
Not the best film of all time, but probably the best stop-animation film of all time.