The Other Mother is the perfect villain. She’s love gone berserk; a spider who loves her prey so much that she has to devour them. “Coraline” is enchanting, beautiful, and a perfectly strange mix of warm and chilling.
Selick’s Coraline is an overwhelming success. The film’s stop motion technology is a very welcome change from the silky-smooth but often-soulless polygons of Pixar and (more often guilty) its clones.
Young Coraline beings her story with a familiar plotline – at least to those of us who grew up familiar with Roald Dahl’s masterful storytelling. She ends up on a dilapidated, seemingly-dull farm in the middle-of-nowhere, completely ignored by her pre-disposed parents and driven by a nagging sense of curiosity. This is all standard fodder for a film apparently aimed at children (although it is nice to see a young female heroine) , but in a fashion typical for the author of the source material, American storyteller Neil Gaiman, the story soon spins off in a magically unpredictable manner.
Coraline quickly transforms from standard children’s fair into a dark and deeply disturbing/interesting film within the first act. In fact, the biggest question for parents may be whether or not this movie is appropriate for children at all. It’s fairly disturbing for an audience under ten – the Other Mother can be very scary; she’s an other-world witch with arachnid tendencies who feels a need to be a perfect matriarch for her subjects; at least until she steals their souls (and, disturbingly, their eyes – which she replaces with buttons) and locks them into her mystical prison forever.
The fantastic and entertaining story is supported by beautifully creepy music that is remiscient of Corpse Bride, but forgoes the musical. Personally, I’m pleased; I’ve never been a fan of musical numbers and probably never will be. And don’t worry, this film meets its zaniness quota; you’ll leave feeling constantly amazed by the visuals the Neil Gaiman draws up – from grasshopper tractors to three-dimensional representations of spider-webs that employ depth as measurements of gravity and time. Yeah, it’s as crazy as it sounds.
Overall, this is a movie for everyone. Neil Gaiman is slowly proving himself to be this generation’s quintessential surreal storyteller, and anytime one of his scripts is ably brought to the big screen, I get excited. This is the same guy who wrote “Stardust” and “Mirrormask,” and any flaws those films might have had are easily handled by Selick’s masterful directing. Any moment when you aren’t completely in love with Coraline and the endearing story, you’ll be gawking at the constantly surprising visuals or mesmerized by the music. There isn’t a single moment in this film when you won’t be entertained, and I can’t help but call this one of the strongest efforts I have seen in ’08 or ’09.
Overall Grade: A