Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Coraline (2009) is a stop-motion animation film directed by Henry Selick, based on Neil Gaiman's novel. It follows the story of a young girl named Coraline, who takes to exploring the house her family has moved into. She finds a passageway into the Other World, where her parents (crabby and too busy in real life) cook amazing meals and are 'loving', where her room looks pretty and well made-up, where her neighbours run circuses and burlesque acts - the Other World seems a Utopia of sorts, where everything seems perfect. But the only worrisome fact is that the Other Mother seems to want to sew buttons on to Coraline's eyes, making her belong there forever. What follows is a Gothic fairytale of sorts, where Coraline, increasingly tempted by the perfect visions, realises all is not as it seems, and that she must use her intelligence and resources to save her parents when they are captured by the Other Mother.

Coraline seems extremely influenced by Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass - with its subject matter of walking into another world, a world where everything seems inverted (perfect), a world where amongst all the beauty, there is a hint of violence. In a nutshell, it's a moral table - Don't disobey your parents, appreciate what you have, and eat your vegetables! But that's not all the movie is. It's dark, it's creepy in parts, and even though the movie's second half progresses too slowly for comfort, it's a piece of work that stays with you.

Dakota Fanning is fantastic as Coraline, Teri Hatcher (of Desperate Housewives fame) voices the Mother and the Other Mother, and Jennifer Saunders is there in the film as well - remember the Fairy Godmother in Shrek 2? The animation is great - without any insult to the animators of this movie, it's a very Tim Burton-esque style that is distinctive - quite comparable to Corpse Bride. Incidentally, Coraline comes from the same guy who was behind A Nightmare Before Christmas (which was written by Tim Burton).

is a gripping watch, for more reasons than one. It's visually stunning, the differences between the two worlds shown up spectacularly not just in terms of subject details but also in animation, it's cute in a rather bizarre way, and the script is strong too. Mention must be made of the music, which fits the mood of the movie perfectly.

Despite a predictable plot and a rather dragging pace towards the end, the movie works. Kudos to director Henry Selick for coming out with a movie that is not just for kids, but also for adults. Much fuss, in fact, has been made of whether this movie is suitable for kids - but don't kids watch much worse stuff nowadays? And adults like us are sure to find relevant messages and perhaps even sexual metaphors in the movie. Watch carefully to know what I'm talking about.

Coraline is definitely worth a watch. With its dark, understated themes of perfection not being what it seems, of a young child's discontentment, of the age-old Good vs. Evil battle - it's eerie in its picturesqueness, Gothic in its style, and really quite memorable.