Coraline Review
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As Coraline’s closing credits ran and I removed my 3-D glasses, fellow critic David Medsker turned to me and said, “And you thought Spiderwick was scary, huh?”

Well, yes. I did. But it’s nothing compared to Coraline.

Based on the book by Neil Gaiman (who also wrote Stardust), the animated fantasy Coraline tells the story of Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning), a young girl who moves away from her home in Michigan to a boring new home in the middle of nowhere. Her parents are too busy working to pay attention to her, and her only friend is a strange kid named Wybie (Robert Bailey, Jr.), who seems to be stalking her with his creepy black cat.

  
 
One night, Coraline is led away from her home through a magical tunnel that leads to a stranger parallel world. This other world offers everything that Coraline wants: attentive parents (though they have buttons for eyes), entertaining neighbors, and a version of Wybie who can’t speak.

Ignoring warnings from her upstairs neighbor’s jumping mice and her downstairs neighbors’ tea-leaf reading, Coraline keeps going back through the tunnel each night. In fact, she’d love to stay there forever. But when she discovers what it’ll cost her, she finally understands the danger she’s in.

Since it was directed by Henry Selick (who also directed Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas), it’s really no surprise that Coraline is a creepy movie. In fact, even when there’s nothing especially creepy happening in the movie, it still feels creepy. There’s just something about the animation that seems a bit off—especially Wybie (short for “Why Born”), with his dull, empty eyes and his inability to keep his head up straight.

But while Selick’s Nightmare was a pretty dark adventure, it pales in comparison to the nightmare-inducing Coraline. You see, the things that happened in Nightmare may have been bad, but at least there was always something good-natured and even silly about good ol’ Jack Skellington. But there’s absolutely nothing good-natured or silly about the “other mother.” Throughout the course of the movie, the button-eyed ghoul goes from unsettlingly eerie to just plain evil. She’ll pluck out your eyes and suck out your soul and imprison you for all of eternity. That’s enough to make even a grown-up viewer (like me) lose a bit of sleep; imagine what it would do for a young, impressionable child.

Time and again, I just couldn’t believe that Coraline managed to get a PG rating. Not only is it really scary, but it’s also a bit…inappropriate at times. At one point, for instance, there’s a scene involving an overweight (and especially well-endowed) old woman wearing nothing but what appears to be a G-string and pasties. Even I didn’t need to see that.

On the bright side, Coraline is definitely an imaginative and eccentric tale with some wonderfully creative moments. The 3-D animation, too, is generally quite well done. Adults will be able to appreciate (and even enjoy) its dark eeriness, but kids (even the ones who act tough) will find it absolutely terrifying. So while this dark adventure is worth seeing, it’s probably best to leave the kids at home.

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