Delightfully twisted Director Henry Selick successfully brings the strange and bizarre world of "Coraline" to the screen, and perfectly captures the morose essence of Neil Gaiman's critically acclaimed children's novella of the same title.
Gaiman's wide array of colorful and fantastical characters and downright morbid setting are perfectly captured in the film interpretation. The cinematography is almost Burton-esque in fashion, especially considering the fact that Selick correlated with Burton in directing previous gothic cult hit, "The Nightmare Before Christmas."
Dakota Fanning excels in voicing adventure-seeking and quirky Coraline. Other voice talents include Teri Hatcher as Coraline's mother/other-mother, John Hodgman as the father/other-father, and Keith David as the black cat that acts as a voice of reason and guide for Coraline.
The movie tells the haunting tale of Coraline's trials after she passes through the curiously small, bricked-up door of her family's Victorian-style mansion. She is thrown into the seemingly wonderful alternate world that her "other mother" has created, where her every whim is met. However, Coraline's dream of living in a perfect sugar-coated world turns into an inescapable nightmare. Her ostensibly sweet "other mother" slowly morphs into a decrepit skeletal figure and attempts to sew buttons onto Coraline's eyes in order to prevent her from leaving the extravagant parallel universe. Coraline comes to the realization that some doors are just better left unopened.
Only a few minute details and characters were added to the movie to rejuvenate the story. Unlike the film version of "Coraline" (which took aim at the teenage audience), Gaiman's novella is geared toward a much younger group (ages 8 ). Without a doubt, the mere idea of buttons being sewn onto the eyes of children, is enough to unsettle and disturb most elementary-age children.
"Coraline" is a stylistic masterpiece, and its highly original storyline dwarfs all other animated films of 2009. One particularly memorable scene is Coraline's first look at her other-father's lively garden. The plants and flowers are shown in incredible detail and seem to glow. The beautifully done musical score from French composer Bruno Coulais and They Might Be Giants only contribute to the creepy mood of the movie. The realistic and eye-catching animation will dazzle every moviegoer.
"Coraline" is rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, some language and suggestive humor. It is probably best to see "Coraline" in its intended 3D animation (playing only at selected theaters).
Courtney Denk is a junior at Sacred Heart Academy.
Review: 3 1/2 stars (out of four)