Film Review: Coraline

Matt Busekroos

Focus Features ambitious 3-D adventure, “Coraline,” is already being touted as one of the early contenders for next year’s Oscars. “Coraline” is a magical tale about a young girl who walks through a secret door in her new home, while discovering an alternate version of her life.

Voiced by Dakota Fanning, Coraline is an adventurous girl, who is completely different from her writer parents. Coraline’s parents (voiced by Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) do not pay much attention to her. They separated Coraline from her friends after the move and are not so helpful toward making her feel adjusted.
The film hits the ground running once Coraline discovers an alternate version of her life behind a closed door. Her “other” mother makes delicious meals and is considerate toward Coraline, while her “other” father is a ball of fun waiting to hang out with his daughter.

The picture is gorgeous to look at, particularly the scene where Coraline’s “other” father in the alternate universe creates a lustrous garden that is shaped like her face. The colors pop off the screen; especially in 3-D. Coraline is propositioned by her “other” parents to live in the alternate world forever, though she must give up her eyeballs and replace them with buttons.

Coraline struggles with her new life and slowly learns that running away from her problems may not have been the best solution. Unfortunately, the film becomes repetitive and tedious between the back and forth of the real and alternate worlds. Is the world real or a figment of Coraline’s imagination? Do we really care?
One gross out moment occurs in the alternate world where Coraline interacts with her neighbors, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible (voiced by the hilarious Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French). The two perform circus-like acrobatics, while wearing skimpy outfits revealing a little too much (in stop-motion animation, no less). The women are old and their fat hangs over the scant wardrobe. One of the women is even wearing pasties over her breasts (think Lil Kim at MTV’s Video Music Awards in 1999). The image was nauseating (yes, it is a cartoon, but yuck) and caused everyone in the theater to look around at one another in grossed out awe. This is certainly not your mother’s favorite Disney cartoon from the ’50s.
Once the film reaches its dramatic climax, the film becomes entertaining again, though it is a little too late. Even after the climax, another dramatic event occurs that makes this film one roller coaster ride too topsy-turvy to follow.
For young children, “Coraline” is a scary thrill ride that will leave them breathless. For teens and young adults, “Coraline” is not worth the price of admission, though it could make for a potentially trippy movie-going experience under the right circumstances.