Science fiction and fantasy                                            


directed by Henry Selick

Coraline poster  
Moving to a new neighbourhood is often difficult. Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) can't find much to like about her new situation. The large old house with its neglected garden and some very strange neighbours doesn't offer her much in the way of entertainment at first. Worse, her parents ignore her as they concentrate on meeting a deadline for a gardening book they are writing. Without the friends she left behind, Coraline is bored.

But one day when exploring she finds a small door that doesn't go anywhere. It's bricked up. Coraline is warned not to go through it, but since the advice comes from mice belonging to the crazy Mr Bobinsky (voiced by Ian McShane), who claims to be training a mouse circus, she doesn't pay much attention to it. However one night the door does lead somewhere, and Coraline goes through it and into another world. She arrives in a place that's a mirror of her own house, only it all seems just a little better. She meets her Other Mother (voiced by Teri Hatcher), who has buttons for eyes.

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.

Film Details

Year: 2009

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: PG

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Anansi Boys cover    

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Not even the offspring of a god can escape the shame of an embarrassing parent.

Coraline cover    

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Coraline Jones is bored when she moves into a creepy old house full of odd old people, until she finds a hidden passage leading to a place where she can get all the attention she wants, if only she will pay the price.

Mirrormask cover    

Mirrormask by Dave McKean
Weirdness abounds in this story of a girl, her mother, and a very peculiar dream.

5 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson


Rowan     22nd June, 2009 20:58pm

I Like it. The black cat was the best.

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