Science fiction and fantasy
directed by Henry Selick
In the other world everything is so much nicer at first. Her other parents are attentive, they cook great food, and the garden is beautiful. Even her new friend, Whybie (voiced by Robert Bailey Jr.), is fixed up to make him quieter because Coraline finds his constant chatter annoying.
The house through the little door seems more vibrant and welcoming than her real life, and it's a real temptation for Coraline to spend all her time there. But it's not long before she uncovers some ugly truths about the button-eyed people.
The stylised animation captures the creepy yet comical atmosphere perfectly. It has a hint of A Nightmare Before Christmas, which Henry Selick also directed. It's a distinctive, attractive look. Coraline's real world is full of grimy details and the textures of worn-out decoration that make the house and garden appear convincingly downbeat.
There are a few differences from the book. Whybie is a new creation, for a start. He seems to have been added so that Coraline can explain to someone what she's thinking and doing. Like most of the neighbours he's as strange as a tuna milkshake, so he fits right in. The location has also been moved, from somewhere in England to an American setting, presumably so the mostly American cast don't seem out of place. Neither Whybie nor the move to America are enough of a deal to detract from the story, however.
It's actually quite a clever tale, for all of its Alice In Wonderland-style dreamy randomness. From the garden that's all about Coraline to the spider-like beldam, the imagery is carefully chosen. As the small but determined girl struggles against her Other Mother she learns about bravery, and standing up to grown-ups, and that things that look too good to be true often are. It's the old warning of "don't take sweets from strangers" shown large and colourful, and with more inspired eccentricity than ever before.
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