Written and Directed by Henry Selick
Voices by Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French and Ian McShane
Coraline Jones: How can you walk away from something and then come towards it?
Cat: Walk around the world.
Coraline Jones: Small world.
I am not now nor have I ever been a ten-year-old girl. As a result, it is not so easy for me to get my mind in line with the pony loving thought process of this particular demographic. I am however, an admirer of animation and artistry. I may have been down by one when I sat to watch, CORALINE, Henry Selick’s long awaited follow up to the delectable, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, but at least I was bringing something to the table. What Selick brought was so much more delicious though. CORALINE is a wondrous experience. Its intricate, stop-motion style is inspired and the first of its kind to be shot entirely in 3D. And while its extravagantly colorful range is most certainly captivating, I still sat there somewhat puzzled. This quirky adventure was certainly new but what did it all mean?
Based on cult-favorite, Neil Gaiman’s cherished novella, CORALINE is about a young girl who has just moved to what seems like the middle of nowhere. Her parents, while well intentioned, do not have time for her. Instead, all they have time for is figuring out how to pay their bills – an animated film for the new economic crisis plagued world. And so, little Coraline, a spunky twig of a character who is voiced with an impressively fresh child-like strength by Dakota Fanning, sets out to find her own place in the world. What she finds is an entire alternative universe, somewhere at the end of a tiny tunnel she stumbles upon in her new living room. It is the world she knows but everything is eerily different, seemingly better in every regard. The most strikingly odd thing about this new world though is how everyone has buttons for eyes and if Coraline wants to stay in this world where she gets everything she wants, then she too will have to have her eyes sewn shut. Dark? Definitely. It is also blatantly symbolic and yet it all remains unexplained. Of course nothing is what it appears to be. The grass isn’t always greener apparently, even though Selick paints it so.
I am torn here. I don’t like when filmmakers spell everything out to me but it doesn’t seem to me that CORALINE is rooted in anything seriously meaningful at all other than the aforementioned greener grass cliché. The truth is that it doesn’t genuinely have to have a deeper meaning. Perhaps if I could think like a little girl, I would just enjoy Coraline’s unexpected and exciting journey. Try as I might though, I cannot fully. I guess, in order for me personally to appreciate the depth all of this beautiful animation conjures for itself, I’d still like a little lesson learned with my children’s story.