Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Ian McShane, John Hodgman
PG for thematic elements, scary images, some language and suggestive humor.
By Gregg Tubbs
is a one-of-a-kind cinematic experience about a girl with a different kind of name who longs for a different and more exciting life. She wants to live in a different place, have different friends, and most of all, have different (better) parents. When she enters a parallel world where another mother and father wait to greet her, she learns the truth of the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” Coraline
is an intoxicatingly imaginative romp that swings from fun-filled joyride to preteen nightmare. There are moments in Coraline
that are playfully ghoulish and others that could scare the very young. But isn’t that the charm of a good fairy tale or ghost story—to feel a little tingle of fright and still know that it will be all right?
Based on Neil Gaiman's international best-selling book, Coralline has been brought deliciously to life by director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas
) using the arcane but spectacular art of stop-motion animation. Much like The Nightmare Before Christmas
(which was conceived and produced by Tim Burton), Coraline
is filled with “Burton-esque” touches—a world filled with an air of impish darkness and baroque stylings, populated by askew buildings, twisted trees and peculiar characters. Available in select theatres in 3D, Coraline
is above all else a feast for the eyes and ears. Its haunting musical score by Bruno Coulais perfectly matches the visual design, evoking an air of childlike whimsy tinged with just enough menace.
When Coraline (Dakota Fanning) discovers
a passage way to a parallel world where another mother and father wait to greet her, she learns the truth of the old
saying, “Be careful what you wish for.”
Copyright © 2009 Focus Features.
Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) longs to escape the boredom of the boarding house in the country her family has moved to so her parents can concentrate on writing a gardening catalogue. Completely focused on meeting their publishing deadline, Coraline’s parents barely look up from their computers when she enters the room. She dreams of a better life with parents that are more attentive. When she discovers a magical door in the house that leads to a parallel world, her dreams seem to have come true.
At first, this parallel reality seems like her real life—only much better. Here, her parents are solicitous and adoring, catering to her every whim. The other residents of the boarding house, who were just odd in the real world, are delightfully entertaining in this one. But before long, sinister details emerge. Her “other mother” in particular is almost predatory in her possessiveness, and eerily, everyone in this other world has buttons for eyes. Fearing that she will lose her, the Other Mother kidnaps Coraline’s real parents. With this dream world dissolving into a dangerous nightmare, Coraline finds that it’s up to her to rescue her real parents and free them all from the Other Mother’s clutches.
is far from a “message” movie, but like any good children’s story, there are lessons and learning moments galore. We see the reassuring message of good triumphing over evil. Coraline herself makes an inspiring heroine. Though small in stature, she possesses great resourcefulness, determination and courage. Witnessing her bravery could help foster bravery in a young heart. We also see her willingness to risk her own safety in order to rescue her parents. Coraline learns to appreciate her real parents, faults and all, and discovers that those we love do not need to be perfect or live up to some fantasy ideal. Perhaps most importantly, Coraline learns the lesson that the things we want are often not the things we need. Sometimes parents—and yes God—have a wiser, better plan.
Coraline’s “other mother” (Teri Hatcher)
is almost predatory in her
possessiveness, and eerily, everyone in this other world has buttons for eyes.
Copyright © 2009 Focus Features.
This brings us to the question of fear. Is Coraline
too scary? It might be too intense for younger children, but children at least 8 or 9 years old should do just fine. In general, if The Wizard of Oz
gives you nightmares, then Coraline
might too. There can be value to a little scariness. A scary story can be a tonic to young minds, providing a wakeup call of sorts. In the case of Coraline
, things are sometimes not what they seem: danger can be lurking behind a pleasant and attractive package. Reality—however imperfect—is better than the most alluring fantasy. Plus, the presence of a little danger and a touch of fear give Coraline’s victory, and new appreciation of her parents, greater resonance.
The best advice might be “know your child.” Make your decision based on what you know his or her ability to separate reality from fantasy and to handle a little scariness. I recommend you see it together so you can share the experience and talk about it afterwards. Coraline
is a richly imaginative, beautifully crafted and haunting film with the potential to be rewarding and enriching experience.
- Could you identify with Coraline? As a child, did you ever wish you had better parents? At the time, how did you wish they were different? How did your understanding of your parents change over time?
- Was there ever anything “wrong” with Coraline’s parents or was the real problem the way she viewed them?
- Have you ever known someone who seemed perfect at first—like the Other Mother—but turned out to be much different in reality? How did you discover the person’s imperfection and how did you react to it?
- Do you think the scariness in Coraline was gratuitous or was there a message behind the fright? If so, what was the message?
- Many children’s stories and fairy tales are scary. Do you think it’s good for children to experience a little fright? Why or why not? Where do you draw the line?
- What was the meaning behind the button eyes? Do they symbolize something dehumanizing? Or do they represent stifling conformity?
- What did you think of the boy, Whybe? Were you shocked by the reason behind his name? How does this help to make him sympathetic?
- What does the film have to say about reality and fantasy? Is the real better than the ideal? What does Coraline learn?
- How does Coraline change over the course of the film? Do her parents change or does her experience change the way she sees them?
- What did Coraline learn about her wishes? Do we always know what’s best for us? What does the film teach about trusting one’s parents? How can we apply that same lesson to trusting in God?
Official Coraline site