Coraline (PG) ★★☆

scene from Coralinescene from Coralinescene from Coraline

A Kid’s Worst Nightmare

The film is an animated fantasy story based on the children’s novel by Neil Gaiman and directed by Henry Selick (The Night Before Christmas) and (James and the Giant Peach). It’s visually an artistic spectacle although the storyline is frightening. The audience for this film would be those who enjoy imaginative and technically designed animation; certainly not children under the age of ten years old. The story itself is dark, creepy and sinister.

To view the film, you’ll pay extra for the 3-D effect plastic glasses and look a little nerdy watching the film; but that’s ok so does everyone else. The glasses make the images on the screen appear darker and provide 3D zingers now and then that will have you grasping wildly at air in front of you.

Based on a children’s novel which has a reading level of about 5th grade, the book reviews all had the same conclusion–‘dark, creepy, horror fantasy tale–one which is not for a sensitive child.’ Hmm…I’m having trouble with this film as a PG rating typically gives a green light to parents.

Again, as a former fourth and fifth grade gifted literature teacher, I did encourage students and parents from staying away from certain authors. Just because a book has been published doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for kids to read. Quite frankly, this decision should not be made by the child. Parents need to guide their kids and help them make choices. Authors don’t always have a sense of what is suitable for children. That is why we have book reviewers that study the content to guide teachers, students and parents.

The director of the film Henry Selick was quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying that he was worried that the film might have gotten a PG-13 rating. He also stated, “It’s for 8 or 9 and up and for the very brave of all ages.” What does that mean? How are parents supposed to judge the bravery factor? Here’s what I say, ‘stay away from this film if you are under 10 and if you are over 10 know that the film is creepy.’

Coraline is a bored only child who has moved to an apartment building with her mom and dad. This fantasy story has bright colors and odd shapes in this every day make believe world. Coraline has bright blue hair and wears a bright yellow coat with Ugg type boots. She has an ‘attitude’ and isn’t afraid to express her opinions. She meets an odd looking boy who tries to warn her about a doll she was given but brushes these warnings off.

Strange things start to happen when Coraline finds a brick wall with a door. She goes through the door–memories of The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, and finds another set of parents. The problem with the new set is they’d like Coraline to stay with them indefinitely and this would mean taking her eyes and replacing them by sewing buttons in their place. It would also mean that the new parents would have her soul.

The film itself is visually artistic to watch. The other dad’s garden is fantastic with flowers that grow before our eyes. The circus scenes with the flying mice are visually appealing as well. Many other scenes don’t work. The overweight ladies wearing corsets were not funny and had nothing to add to the story. I heard kids asking, “When is this movie going to be over?” during these scenes. (I was thinking the same thing.)

Bottom line–The artistic elements in the film are incredible, although they need to find a new storyline, not one about a lonely little girl who finds herself mixed up with creepy people and scary insects.

Sarah Adamson © 2009