Stop motion animated films do not come around very often, as they are painstakingly slow to make. Well made and engaging examples even less frequently, we should therefore doubly celebrate as Hernry Selnick has released another excellent example of the genre.
Based on the book by Neil Gaiman this thoroughly modern moral fable starts out in dayglo primary palettes and gradually with each episode, tone and colours darken. From the beautifully crafted and scored opening credits, you know you are in for a treat.
Coraline (voiced winningly by Dakota Fanning) moves in with her parents (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) to a semi Gothic pile with eccentric upstairs and downstairs neighbours, mad mouse circus wrangler (Ian McShane) and gone to seed theatrical dames (Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders) respectively .
Whilst out walking, Coraline first befriends an all knowing cat and then meets Wybie (Robert Bailey Junior) who lends her a doll in her own image with buttons for eyes. Led one night by mice though a small door that had previously been bricked up, Coraline meets her “other” parents. You know the one’s, the parents that let you do anything, give you whatever you want, even making a whole garden shaped in your likeness. You can stay but there is a price, have your eyes replaced with sewn in buttons.
This is classic moralistic fairy tale for children, be good and be content with your lot, if you wish for more, look what could happen.
What is unusual, is how far the boundaries are pushed. Abandoned with only a cat for a friend (interestingly voiced by Keith David) some of the images are disturbing and young children may find it all a bit much. The “other” Wybie’s fate in particular, with his forced smile somewhat reminiscent of the Heath Ledger’s Joker in “Batman First Knight”, seems guaranteed to give the little one’s pause for thought.
The animation is of course excellent. Coraline is feisty and prepared to fight to regain what she has lost, despite the world quite literally and very effectively at one point, disintegrating around her. Coraline’s pipe cleaner thin legs are amazing to behold as is her fathers elongated neck. The mother somehow captures Hatcher’s essence remarkably well. The monster she gradually becomes is very effective and disturbing, her poor old husband ending up as a rag doll, quite literally with no stuffing.
French and Saunders take the train to platform “over the top” and then stay on for a further couple of stops. Thankfully this was viewed on a widescreen
TV otherwise frankly those bosoms would not have fit on the screen, you do not normally see that in a children’s
Neat touches abound, the scene where Coraline inadvertently turns off the electricity is funny and touching. Coraline wiping a patch in the misted glass for her doll to see out and her parents constant inability to provide her with any “face time”, the ultimate gift to any child. They are just too darn busy with stuff, thus causing the need to find adventure in the first place.
“I nearly fell down a well Mum, I nearly died” Coraline over exaggerates, “That’s nice” says a distracted and busy Mum.
Of course it is no spoiler that order is restored but not without a “Terminator Lite” style coda which is certainly thrilling and somewhat unexpected.
A beautifully made, animated and presented horror movie for children with genuinely scary images and themes.
If the little one’s can take it, they will love this but be prepared to stay up all night reassuring them that the small cupboard door downstairs, really does go nowhere…