Coraline is the story of Coraline Jones (Fanning), an adventurous girl who moves with her parents to a new village and into a weird, creaky old house, called the Pink Palace. Both her parents (Hatcher and Hodgman) don’t have time for her and Coraline keeps herself busy by visiting the Pink Palace’s other inhabitants. Downstairs is taken by an eccentric duo of bickering old performers, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible (Saunders and French), while upstairs is the amazing Bobinsky (Ian McShane), a Russian circus star with performing mice. But then Coraline finds a door to a parallel world, where everything is strangely idealised with doppelgangers of everbody she knows.

Coraline is directed by Henry Selick, who previously directed The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. The style looks pretty similar to those two, yet still having very much an ambience uniquely its own. While it looks animated, everything is stop-motion, but shot in 3D. There are quite some beautiful scenes, but my favourite’s got to be the trapeze scene; it just seems like a dream sequence (which it kind of is).The strength of the movie mainly comes from its great ensemble of characters. Coraline is an interesting and likable character, and you understand the reasons behind everything she does. Her normal parents are boring and have no time for her and you can see why she’s so charmed by the attention of the Other parents. The Other parents are creepy from the start, with their button eyes and eerie perfectness. Mr Bobinsky, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible are all weird characters in the real world and their Other world versions are even stranger.

Story-wise, I wasn’t too impressed. I know it’s meant as a kids film, but I wish there was a bit more depth and explanation to the story. I loved the whole set-up; the weird characters, the other world and its inhabitants, but I would have loved to see a more satisfying wrap-up. Coraline is a beautiful movie and definitely one you’ve got to see in the cinema in 3D. The characters are all intriguing and different than anything you’ve seen before. Tip: stay seated until after the credits, there’s a little tidbit (really tiny) after it.
SECOND OPINION | Stuart O'Connor ****
Fairy tales are scary – that's what they're for, that's why children love them, and that's how they teach their lessons. Coraline is a superior fairy tale from master craftsmen Neil Gaiman, who wrote the novel, and filmmaker Henry Selick – it's smart, funny and very, very scary. Not in a nasty, gory way, or monsters jumping out and going "boo" way. Where Coraline really chills you to the bone is with its central terror that lurks deep within every child – losing your parents. Selick, who made The Nightmare Before Christmas, again proves what a master of stop-motion animation he is, and shows that he aso has a deft hand with the 3D format (see this film at a 3D-equipped cinema if you can). The visuals are lavish and creepy, the story moves at a cracking pace, and although there are a few changes to Gaiman's book – the puzzling addition of a male friend, named Wybie, for Coraline – it is a truly wonderful and magical journey. Just don't watch it alone.

Official Site
Coraline at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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