‘Coraline’ is a great film, you should know this from the outset. It’s also very different from the book – if you’re looking for Neil Gaiman’s vision to be replicated here you’ll be sorely disappointed, although the tone of his children’s novel is very largely kept. Coraline is a young girl largely ignored by her parents, living a rich imaginary life. Brash and American (voiced by a frustratingly precocious Dakota Fanning), she lives in an apartment building in the country above the old theatre goddesses Miss Spink and Miss Forcible (voiced by the perfectly cast Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders), and underneath the crazy Mr Bobinsky and his circus of rats. An explorer by choice, she wonders where the blocked off passageway in her family’s new flat once led – one night she finds out. She encounters an alternative reality where her every desire is met, a reality ruled by her ‘Other Mother’ (Teri Hatcher at her wicked best). Will she be seduced? And is the Other Mother even real?
Our journey with Coraline is a sheer, enchanting delight, as the lines between dream, reality and alternate reality blur into confusion. Whilst this is not the setting Neil Gaiman creates for the novel, it’s still highly entertaining, and although Coraline is more of a stereotypical hero, she’s still very sympathetic. I must confess I missed the inner voice which Neil Gaiman gave his literary heroine – more withdrawn, more reserved, but with a sense of increasing heroism against the odds, which isn’t present here in this altogether more self-confident character. Although this Coraline is an effective guide through this alternate reality and its wonders, and her morality is the same as Gaiman’s counterpart, the darkness she must also confront is disappointingly largely absent; it spoils the film somewhat.
I think I’m nitpicking however – this is a children’s film, and Selick retains all the book’s elements, jumbled somewhat at times. Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders are delightful as Spink & Forcible, the cat is just as funny and enigmatic an element as his counterpart in the book, and the realisation of some of Gaiman’s most fantastic dreamscapes are quite breathtaking. Teri Hatcher is fantastic as Coraline’s mother and her evil alternate, although in the book the initial difference between the two is marginal and much creepier for it. It’s fun to see the animated character increasingly resemble the real Hatcher though, and her exaggeration again no doubt makes for a much better children’s film. It’s well worth your time whatever your age. 8/10
(My Film Impact audioboo, with my initial thoughts about the film can be heard here)