'Coraline' is a dazzling stop-motion animation splendor, a visual marvel of an animated fantasy based on Neil Gaiman's 2002 novel for children, and despite an uneven storyline, a narrative that lacks focus, one cannot deny that its' exquisite imagery has whimsical appeal.
The centre of this stereoscopic 3-D adventure saga, is blue-tressed, spunky tween, Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning), whose parents' (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) move from Michigan to Oregon, finds Coraline feeling lost, as her parents, distracted by their jobs and the prospect of settling in to new surroundings, are of little help to her. Exploring her surroundings, Coraline feels bored rather than having a fun time. Even their oddball neighbors, two overbearing, aging British actresses (Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French), fail to offer much in the way of amusement, with Coraline finding it quite difficult to warm up to them.
Outrageous Russian former gymnast (Ian McShane) is slightly more interesting, while she dismisses Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr.) as a stalker.
Eventually, Coraline, 11, discovers a hidden door in her family's drab apartment, and finds excitement, much more than she had bargained for, as the door leads to a parallel universe.
Coraline's real world is about a snappish mother, who cleans while her uninspired father cooks unappetizing dishes, with neither paying attention to their daughter. In the alternate world, Coraline's Other Mother is a fabulous cook, and Coraline's room is a young girl's fantasy come true. And, Coraline's Other Father takes her for rides through a phantasmagoric garden he has planted solely for her.
This other world is livelier and more exotic than the real ones. Even Coraline's neighbors, Amazing Bobinsky ( Ian McShane), a furtive acrobat and retired actresses Miss Spink and Miss Forcible (the British comedy team of Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French) are much wilder and crazier, in the alternate than the real world.
Ere long, the glorious dream turns into a gothic nightmare, with the sweet as sugar Other Mother turning malevolent, while the Other Father is simply ineffectual, and the home once full of flowers and delicious treats, turns into a creepy lair that ensnares innocent kids. Advised by a self-possessed talking cat ( Keith David), Coraline is forced to realize what is important in life, as she fights to keep family and self alive.
Even though, one finds the 3-D a little underused, nevertheless, the beauty of the animation resonates, more often than not. It's thrilling to watch a jumping mouse circus and an entire audience of 248-Scottie dogs, watching a theatrical performance. One finds it impossible not to be impressed.
A remarkable feat of director Henry Selick's imagination, 'Coraline' is a magical tale that comes with a genuinely sinister edge that could prove off-putting for children. Though rated PG, it is a film more suitable for adults.
The film adapted from Gaiman's original novel, translated into 30-languages and which sold a million copies worldwide, this product from one of the premier dark fantasists of his generation, and Selick, the director of the deliciously creepy 'The Nightmare Before Christmas', says it all. It is rare to find a film capturing you completely by what goes on in it, as 'Coraline' does! How amazingly wonderful is that!
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