From Henry Selick, director of THE NIGHMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, comes this quirky, bizarre and downright dark animated film that combines stylish animation with the increasingly popular garnish of children’s films: 3-D. Whereas Disney-Pixar have been going for the more subtle 3-D of films like BOLT, CORALINE is an all-out visual extravaganza with graphics to die for, and it makes for exceptional viewing.
Based on the novels of Neil Gaiman, CORALINE is not an obvious story to blow up onto the big screen for young kids. Daring in its darkness, it tells the tale of young Coraline Jones (voiced by Hollywood rent-a-teen Dakota Fanning) who has just moved to a house away from the city with parents, who write for a gardening magazine. Her new life seems boring, like her parents, and she struggles to settle. However, the discovery of a strange doll that looks exactly like her leads her into an encounter with an evil witch that wants a child of her own.
The everyday world inhabited by Coraline looks good enough itself, with characters like her creepy new friend Wybie Lovat and Russian mouse-circus guy Mr. Bobinsky who lives upstairs both looking great and providing some much-needed moments of fun (Wybie hunting for banana slugs in the mist, and then pretending they are boogers dangling from his nose is one such scene). But the real brilliance of the film comes in the ‘Other World’ created by the evil witch masquerading as Coraline’s ‘Other mother’. Aside from bizarre features such as everyone having buttons for eyes, there is such sumptuous scenery as a living, singing, dancing garden and a mega-awsome mouse theatre. And once the Other Mother is revealed for the evil witch she is Selick is let loose on the kind of twisted realms he painted so well in THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS.
Sometimes the film relies a bit heavily on its look though, with the story patched up a little too compactly to provide a large scale kids adventure film of the kind usually favoured in cinemas, and if you add to this the extreme nature of some of the warped characters then it might be worth considering that CORALINE isn’t the greatest film for young children.
Nonetheless, it’s a great change from the normal fair, and a grand return to form for Henry Selick which trounces all of those pseudo-Burton immitators that pop up once in a while (remember IGOR, urgh) well into oblivion. What’s more it shows that a film targeted at a young audience does not need to be wholesome and happy to be entertaining and enjoyable.
A final bonus that is not to be neglected is that parents too can be pleased with this family film. It shows that it is possible to win over older audience with the story and design, rather than ‘adult jokes’ hidden within a juvenile narrative.