"Imaginative, But Spooky"
CORALINE is a dark, spooky fantasy that, however, has some content that can be put into a positive redemptive framework, despite the story’s darkness.
Based on the popular novel by Neil Gaiman, CORALINE is a stop-motion animated movie directed by Henry Selick, who did THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH.
Coraline Jones is a precocious 11-year-old girl whose parents have moved the family into the Pink Palace Apartments. Her parents are busy writing a garden book and have no time for her. The new place bores Coraline, even though there are interesting people there, including retired Russian circus performer who lives upstairs and the two elderly English actresses living downstairs. Wybie, the weird boy who lives next door, is just plain annoying, as is the black cat that hangs around the place.
Then, Coraline discovers a small walled-up doorway in one of the rooms. That night, some mice escape from the doorway and draw Coraline to it. She opens the door and discovers a mysterious tunnel. The tunnel leads to a kitchen that looks just like her family’s new kitchen, but better. Her mother has her back turned toward Coraline and is making the most delicious smelling breakfast Coraline has ever encountered, something that her mother never does! The woman cooking the food turns around. She looks just like Coraline’s mother except for one thing. She’s got little black buttons for eyes!
“You’re not my mother,” Coraline says, and the woman replies, in her mother’s voice, “No, I’m your Other Mother.”
Coraline can’t resist the food placed before her. While she’s eating it, she finds out that this mother is so much nicer than her real mother. And, so is the man who says that he’s Coraline’s Other Father. Both Other Mother and Other Father are as nice as they can be. They tuck Coraline into bed, which is so much nicer than her real bed. The next morning, Coraline wakes up to find herself in her real bed in her threadbare room.
Coraline makes two more excursions to this strange new world, where even the neighbors are more interesting than their counterparts. The black cat from the real world, however, can go into the other world (where he can also talk!). He warns Coraline about Other Mother’s real intentions, but Coraline doesn’t listen.
Sure enough, during the third trip back, Other Mother says that Coraline can stay with her for the rest of her life, but only if she does one thing: if she pokes out her own eyes and sews two little button eyes on her face, just like the people in Other Mother’s world!
Coarline refuses. Other Mother gets very angry and imprisons Coraline. Coraline discovers the ghosts of three other children who were trapped by Other Mother years earlier. She promises the ghosts that she will find their real eyes so that their souls can be renewed and go to Heaven.
With help from the cat, Coraline must defeat Other Mother and find the ghosts’ real eyes if she is going to keep her promise and save everyone, including her real parents.
Like NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, CORALINE is visually stunning and creative, but very spooky. Thus, parents might not want to allow even their older children see this movie.
Also, the story seems to have some plot holes, such as how come there are two sets of characters in these two worlds but only one Coraline and only one cat? Wouldn’t the other characters in the real world have to have sewn black buttons on their eyes for Other Mother to trap them in her world?
Furthermore, the final battle between Coraline and Other Mother and its visuals are not as imaginative as the rest of the movie. This leaves the viewer somewhat unsatisfied.
A final problem with CORALINE the movie is that Coraline and her parents do not come across as extremely appealing characters. Coraline’s parents neglect her. They also seem rather goofy and odd. Furthermore, Coraline herself doesn’t seem to like other people very much either. Thus, it isn’t until she risks her life to save others that her character begins to have any morally redeeming qualities beyond her obvious bravery.
That said, the story in CORALINE has a redemptive structure. First, Other Mother’s world is like a vision of Hell which a demonic figure (i.e., Other Mother), controls, like a spider waiting for its prey. In that respect, Other Mother is like the serpent in the Garden of Eden who entices Eve (or Coraline) to eat the forbidden fruit. Ultimately, like Hercules, or some depictions of Jesus Christ for that matter, Coraline must journey into Hell to save people who are enslaved by an evil oppressor holding them in chains.
For these reasons, and its imaginative visuals, CORALINE redeems itself from becoming a waste of time, or something worse. Still, it deserves a caution for older children.
Other content occurs in CORALINE that deserves a caution. First, the three ghost children help Coraline at one point. Also, in an early scene, Coraline tries to use a divining stick to find an old well. Finally, a scene with the two elderly actresses in Other Mother’s world includes shots of the actresses in very skimpy costumes. For another summary of the movie’s elements, please refer to the CONTENT section above.
(Pa, B, C, O, L, VV, S, N, MM) Light mixed pagan worldview with light moral/redemptive premise and some lighter occult elements such as child heroine uses divining stick to locate hidden well but is interrupted and two women read tea leaves for heroine but can’t agree on what the leaves say, which implicitly sort of mocks such occult practices; no obscenities, three light exclamatory profanities and one exclamation that sounds like Gaaaw!; strong, sometimes scary and menacing, violence or hints of violence such as sorceress wants to force child heroine to remove her eyes and sew buttons onto the sockets, sorceress imprisons people, sorceress chases heroine two or more times, magical flowers and bugs attack heroine, sorceress threatens to keep heroine’s parents imprisoned for life, and scary spider creature chases heroine; two elderly actresses put on a suggestive stage act and there may have been a suggestive theatrical poster of some sort in one brief shot; actresses are dressed in skimpy, somewhat revealing and/or suggestive costumes and poses; no alcohol; no smoking; and, child heroine doesn’t have a really healthy relationship with her parents, who are preoccupied with their work and neglect her welfare, plus movie implies that people who go to Heaven get wings but the movie never explicitly calls such people angels.
CORALINE is a stop-motion animated picture directed by Henry Selick, who did THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH. In the story, based on Neil Gaiman’s popular book, an 11-year-old girl named Coraline must defeat an evil sorceress who has imprisoned three other children and her parents. Posing as her “Other Mother,” the sorceress has lured Coraline into her world, which seems nice but really isn’t. In defeating the villain, Coraline gets help from a wise talking cat, the story’s most interesting character.
Like NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, CORALINE is visually stunning but very spooky. Thus, parents need to exercise caution for their older children about it. Also, the story leaves some unanswered questions and includes main characters that are not as appealing as they should be. Also, the final battle with Other Mother is not as imaginative as the rest of the movie. That said, the story’s structure is somewhat redemptive. For example, the heroine enters a demonic realm to defeat its evil, seductive ruler and rescue the people who are enslaved by this oppressor holding them in chains. Viewed that way, CORALINE is slightly more interesting and uplifting.