The StoryCoraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is a spunky 11 year old girl who moves into a new apartment with her absent-minded mother (Teri Hatcher) and father (John Hodgman). Her parents are busy writing gardening books and don't have much time to talk to or otherwise pay attention to Coraline, so she takes it upon herself to explore her new surroundings. After checking out an abandoned well in the woods, and meeting and sort of making friends with a pesky kid named Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr), Coraline explores the rooms in her new home and discovers a tiny locked door basically hidden from view.
Coraline, being an inquisitive child, goes through the doorway and follows a passage to a house that looks strangely just like her own home. There's even a mom – known as Other Mother - and a dad – called Other Father - inhabiting this Other World who are mirror images of her own real parents but with one major difference: Other Mother and Other Father have buttons for eyes. These big black orbs reveal nothing of what's going on within Other Mother and Other Father's heads, but their words and actions indicate they love Coraline. Other Mother and Other Father want Coraline to stay with them in their world where they promise to lavish love and attention on her in ways her own parents have been neglecting to do.
The Bottom LineWhen I walked out of the screening my first thought was, "I have no idea who the target audience for this is." But I actually do know who's going to go for Coraline. I loved it and Nightmare fans will love it, as well anyone who enjoys stop motion animation. The problem is that the first 30 minutes or so play to a young audience while the last hour is definitely aimed at more mature adults. But that doesn't mean younger viewers won't be transfixed by this incredibly detailed, incredibly vivid imaginary world of secret passageways leading to evil faux parents. Coraline could inspire a few nightmares involving creatures with button eyes and ghost children trapped in this world, so it's a tough call for parents on whether or not to let anyone younger than 13 check out this film in theaters.
Neil Gaiman's book was a twisted tale of a brave young girl who wanders into a strange world inhabited by alternate versions of her mother and father. The book was creepy, but writer/director Selick takes Gaiman's tale and ups the ante by adding an even more eerie, otherworldly tone to the subject matter.
Coraline was directed by Henry Selick and is rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, some language and suggestive humor.