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Saturday, 23 May 2009

Coraline (2009)

Finding myself with an afternoon to kill in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, I went to the movies on my own, which is not something I do too often. The local multiplex has 12 separate screeens for one's delight, but I was not tempted by the likes of "Startrek", "Wolverine", or another "Night at the Museum" -- although all of these will be viewed in due course. For me, the above animated film was the obvious choice, not only because it has had excellent reviews and done good business Stateside, but also for its provenance. Based on a prize-winning novella by Neil Gaiman with a screenplay co-written by him and genius director Henry Selick, I knew I was in for a fantasy treat. Selick was also responsible for the memorable "Nightmare before Christmas" (NOT directed by Tim Burton, despite his name being in the title) and the wonderful "James and the Giant Peach". The film also boasts a fine voice cast, led my Dakota Fanning as the eponymous heroine, and a spooky score.



Coraline moves to an apartment in a creaky old house with her parents who are too involved with their own pursuits to give her much attention; their immediate neighbours are a mad old Russian and two aging ex-burlesque queens -- not great company for a young inquisitive girl. The only other child of her age in the neighbourhood is an initially creepy masked boy who tears about on his bike. Then she discovers a bricked-up, wallpapered-over hole in the wall of their flat which opens up into a parallel world, where her bedroom is a fairyland marvel and where her "other-mother" and "other-father" do their best to spoil her rotten. The only catch is that everyone in that world, bar a talkative cat, has buttons instead of eyes, and Coraline is asked to sew some big, black ones onto her own face if she wishes to stay.



The film which has a PG rating is quite probably unsuitable for susceptible youngsters; while I know that most kids can tolerate the occasional scary story and macabre characters, I can see this film giving some children the old heebie-jeebies, especially as the "other-mother" eventually reveals her true, insectoid real self in her determination to trap Coraline, as she has other ghost-children before her. Against this however are some wonderful fantasy scenes, foremost of which was a theatrical performance by the two rejuvenated ex-ecdysiasts for an audience of appreciative scottie-dogs. That did make me smile! Needless to add, I loved the film as, I think, would most adult audiences; it's the kiddies for whom it was made and certificated that I worry about.
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