Coraline is a stop-motion fantasy horror film, based on the graphic novel of the same name.
Coraline Jones is a 11 year old girl who just moved into Ashland, Oregon. For some reason, the Land Mistress of the Pink Palace appartments doesn't allow couples with children to move in but nevertheless Coraline's family moves in. Coraline soon meets a boy named Wybie Lovat and finds a stray cat. Wybie warns her that the last three children who lived at the Pink Palace apartments all disappeared mysteriously but she shrugs him off. That same day Coraline finds an old well that was sealed off years ago.
Coraline's life is rather miserable, as her parents are very neglectful and even rude towards her and she has no friends left. Wybie brings her a button-eyed ragdoll that looks suspiciously like her, the doll quickly leads Coraline towards a strange locked door at the appartment. Coraline gets the key that opens the door and later that night sneaks into it, when she does she finds herself in a parallel world that looks just like her normal world, except all inhabitants have button eyes just like the ragdoll.
Coraline meets her "Other Mother", who explains that they're in the "Other World" a dimension where unfortunate children can live a happier version of their previous lives. The Stray Cat finds Coraline in the Other World where he can talk and have some degree of control over the pocket dimension. He tries to warn Coraline about her Other Mother but Coraline ignores him. Coraline finds herself greatly enjoying the Other World, becoming obsessed with going there as often as posssible and even considering staying there forever. However it isn't long before she starts becoming suspicious about the Other Mother like the cat said after Other Wybie and Other Father subtly tried warning her.
Coraline wants to go back to the real world but Other Mother refuses to let her go. Coraline stumbles into the ghosts of the kids that disappeared long ago. The ghosts explain that the "Other Mother" is actually an evil witch called The Beldam; she lures unhappy children into the Other World by sending ragdolls to spy on them and transform the Other World into the kid's ideal world of happiness, then when the kid becomes happy enough that they want to stay forever the Beldam replaces their eyes with buttons and devours them. Other Wybie helps Coraline escape back to the real world at the cost of his own life.
Back in the real world Coraline finds that her parents have been kidnapped by the Beldam in order to force to go back to the Other World. The Stray Cat fears that The Beldam is too powerful for Coraline, so he instead suggests Coraline to outsmart the Beldam. Coraline challenges the Beldam to a game which the Beldam agrees too; If Coraline can find the souls of the dead children within a time limit, the Beldam will release Coraline, her parents, and all the previous victims, but if time runs out Coraline must allow the Beldam to give her the button eyes. Coraline is able to find all the souls but the Beldam cheats and refuses to let Coraline leave, revealing her true form as an arachnoid-like monster as the Other World begins to collapse. Coraline throws the Stray Cat into the Beldam, the cat blinds the Beldam so that he and Coraline can dodge her and escape through the door. Coraline makes it back home and locks the door to the Other World just as her parents walk in with no memory of being kidnapped. Unknown to Coraline, one of the Beldam's hand snuck through the door.
That night the ghosts of the victims thank Coraline for helping them pass on to the afterlife but warn her that the Beldam hasn't been truly defeated yet, as the Key to the Other World is still at the Pink Palace. Coraline and the Cat take the key to the old well planning to toss it there forever but before they can the Beldam's hand captures Coraline and attempts to drag her back to the Other World, but luckil Wybie appears and defeats the hand. Coraline and Wybie toss both the hand and the key into the well and seal it again, ending the threat forever.
The next day Coraline learns that Wybie's grandmother was the older sister of one of the Beldam's victims and that's why she refused kids to live at Pink Palace Appartments; to prevent any potential new victims from getting close to the Beldam in the first place. Coraline tells Wybie's grandmother about her adventure and assures her that the Beldam has been dealt with.
While the Pink Palace residents are having a party, The Cat walks through a sign post and dissapears, suggesting that there may still be other entrances to the Other World remaining.
Why It Rocks
- The stop-motion animation is wonderful and heavily detailed, especially for 2009 standards and for Laika's first feature film.
- The atmosphere has a creepy and cool look, which fits the mood of the story and its objective.
- Lovable characters, most notably the titular character Coraline. Wybie is also quite entertaining, as with the stray cat. Coraline and Wybie might be somewhat relatable to teens and preteens, and are good role models for preteens/teens. Their character designs are slightly redesigned from the originals to fit with the stop-motion style.
- Coraline and Wybie's interactions with each other are entertaining.
- Dakota Fanning does a great job playing Coraline. The same can be said about the other voice actors in the film, who also fit their roles well.
- Suspenseful story with good twists and turns.
- Although the horror factor is significantly toned down from the original novel, the film remains loyal to it for the most part stays true, and has the charm and creepiness of it as well. The changes it makes from the original book also make sense and are interesting, such as the addition of Wybie. Neil Gaiman's involvement in production as mentioned before also helped.
- Certain lines and moments are pretty funny without trying too hard to make the audience laugh, such as when Coraline is in the other world and asks the cat why he can suddenly talk, and the cat answers "I just can."
- The scene where Coraline sees that her parents aren't home is emotional and touching, especially when Coraline sets up pillows to look like her parents and says goodnight to them before she starts crying.
- Some moments are possibly too scary or otherwise inappropriate for being a PG-rated family movie. For instance, there are direct mentions of death, as well as depictions of mutilation, such as sewing buttons over eyes, and when the Other Wybie has his mouth stitched into a permanent smile after the Beldam caught him looking upset (and seems to have been killed afterwards, since his empty clothing is later shown hanging on a flagpole). Additionally, some moments are sexually suggestive, such as the scene where the Other Miss Forcible and Miss Spink do a performance while wearing revealing clothing, and when Coraline has dinner with her Other Family for the first time and her Other Father compliments "Mother's golden chicken breast", as to which the Other Mother responds with an "oh, you" wave.
- There are a few errors, though they may be hard to notice. For instance, at one point the Other Father presses the "F" key on the piano when the sound is really an "F#". There's also a part where Coraline drops her notebook, and in one shot you can see the wires holding it up.
- Wyborne doesn't contribute much to the film. This can be attributed to the fact that the character didn't exist in the original novel.