What is it about the name “Neil” that nobody seems to spell it the same way twice? So far on GeekReads, we’ve had Neal Stephenson, Neill Blomkamp, and now Neil Gaiman. Coraline is based on a novel by Gaiman, about a young girl who moves into a creepy old house. Her boredom and curiosity lead her to a hidden door, through which she discovers an parallel universe that is more interesting than her dreary reality.
Directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), the movie is presented in claymation style, and like Nightmare, looks deceptively similar to other animated fairy-tales but contains elements of horror. This has caused more than a few parents to regret making the mistake of bringing their young kids. The richness and creepiness of the story comes from the unsettling way in which it turns everything upside down: what’s usually safe and comforting (dolls, cute little mice, and bright colourful flowers) turns out to be evil, and what’s usually evil (mangy cats, circus freaks, and scary old ladies) ends up being comforting and safe.
We watched it in 3D and the graphics were fantastic, with lots of attention to detail. But other than the opening sequence, the movie wasn’t really designed to “wow” you with 3D effects so I ended up forgotting about it after a while. The voice acting was unremarkable, except in some parts when Dakota Fanning sounded like she was reading the script out loud. I can’t understand why animated-movie makers cram celebrities into the cast, especially when the art and animation don’t seem to be influenced by the voice acting at all (compare with Jim Carrey in the Disney animated remake of Scrooge that they showed in the trailers before the movie).
Gaiman is a master of the modern, adult fairy tale, and Coraline provides a rich, entertaining and engrossing story. Just don’t take your kids.