Neil Gaiman’s stunning, horrific children’s novel has been adapted for the big screen—with model animation and three dimensions.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Henry Selick.
Written by Henry Selick and Neil Gaiman

Cast

Dakota Fanning as Coraline Jones
Teri Hatcher as Mother/Other Mother
Keith David as Cat
Jennifer Saunders as Miss Spink
Dawn French as Miss Forcible
John Hodgman as Father/Other Father
Robert Bailey, Jr. as Wybie
Ian McShane as Mr. Bobinksy

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb

Premise:

A little girl, frustrated with her mundane existence, walks through a mysterious door and into an alternate version of her house, where things are more than slightly askew. Her grotesque “other” mother who lives there has buttons for eyes, and wants to sew similar ones onto Coraline and keep the child there forever. And that’s just the start; this mysterious woman has far more monstrous secrets. She has kidnapped Coraline’s parents, and her closet contains the souls of other lost children who have fallen into her spidery clutches.

With the help of a talking cat, an odd little boy, and some spinsters, Coraline faces one of the most diabolical villains in the history of children’s literature.

High Point:

The film features stunning design and, if it doesn’t quite replicate the effect of reading the original novel, it certain makes for a worthwhile couple of hours at the movies.

Although they have minimized the novel’s most macabre flourishes, Coraline retains much of the original creepiness. The Beldam cuts a frightening figure, and the cat is downright nasty in battle.

Low Point:

I accept that the story has been tempered somewhat (I love the novel, but a direct translation to film might be a bit too nightmarish) and Americanized (I have no idea why. Harry Potter‘s box-office wasn’t hurt by its British setting). However, other changes diminish somewhat the self-reliance and quick-wittedness of the novel’s heroine, and the inclusion of a male friend changes the final confrontation in the garden, resulting in a less impressive finale.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6. It’s a good adaptation of a successful novel which took a highly inventive approach to a well-worn premise.

Animation: 6/6. The digital stop-motion matches the effects of A Nightmare Before Christmas in quality and inventiveness.

Story: 5/6: Gaiman’s story holds up, despite additions and alterations. Although the original novel has been softened, Coraline retains much of its macabre edge, particularly in the final third. I originally warned that the novel might induce nightmares, even in adults; here, the warning goes mostly to the younger viewers.

Voice Acting: 6/6 Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, and Keith Henry lead a cast who act, rather than celebrity-guest, the characters. Brit comedians French and Saunders give great voice to the hilarious, grotesquely-rendered Spink and Forcible.

Production: 6/6. The film’s design, on its own, should impress most viewers. Seeing that design in state-of-the-art 3-D makes it all the more remarkable. The score by Burno Coulais and They Might be Giants also warrants mention.

Emotional Response: 5/6.

Overall: 6/6.

In total, Coraline receives 37/42.

Stay until the end.