Imagination runs wild in Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning), a bright and cute girl that effortlessly tries to create a universe in which all her fears and wishes are best expressed. Based fully on Neil Gaman’s incredible fantasy-filled journey and place on the frame of those who love dreaminess artistry in the Nightmare Before Christmas filmmaker Henry Selick, and you are left with Coraline. By allowing us into her world, Coraline makes ‘Coraline’ a thrilling stop-motion animated adventure which shines as a high point in Selick’s career of creating handcrafted wonderlands of beauty blended with multiple layers of genius.
Coraline moves with her constantly busy parents (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) to an apartment in an old and weird establishment: the Pink Palace Apartments. The tenants are similarly unusual. There is a pair of British ladies of the stage (Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French), and a Russian circus gymnast (Ian McShane) who’s all skinny blue limbs and big blue belly. Coraline is bored, and is constantly ignored as the movie makes quite clear until she discovers a secret door in the living room. Curiosity sparks the mind, and she climbs through a beautiful loop filled with glittery cloud dusts and sparkly ornaments fit for a princess. She is then greeted by her Other Mother (also Hatcher) — an impossibly caring version of her real parent, better in every way except for her eyes. Coraline is shocked to find they are black-shaded buttons. There is a more charming Other Father too, with more magnificent versions of everyone she left behind until the danger is fully revealed. We obviously don’t want to go into this.
The interesting thing about Coraline is not actual other world, but it’s the heavy metaphor used in terms of the buttons. Eventually Coraline loves the Other World so much, that she is tempted to join until it is revealed she needs to sew buttons on her eyes to do so. Of course, our pretty-eyed heroine refuses to acknowledge the very buttons of her dismantling life: busy parents, and the constant thought of loneliness. A few buttons couldn’t possibly be that much of a sacrifice. As viewers will later discover, there are many other literary intricacies in Coraline that have brilliantly been carried over through the book, which is a key reason lovers of the novel will not leave disappointed with the all too familiar “the book was better” scenario.
The only downside to Coraline as a film itself comes in the form of Dakota Fanning. Casting wise, it makes sense to hire a girl that exaggerates her acting naturally as much as exaggeration allows for in terms of emotion in voice acting. The only problem is Dakota Fanning leaves on-screen Coraline eventually unbearable. The cringing exaggerated outbursts and the very empty voice performance of anything related to the plot in a major way are completely desiderated by her utterly horrible voice acting. It’s a shame that she was casted when a better and perhaps more remarkable performance could have easily been given by an introductory actor.
Coraline is a great film that should be seen in 3-D stop motion if it’s available to a nearest theater. If not, still see the normal anamorphic version. It’s magical either way, minus the bad voice acting.