“Coraline” (2009)

Why do movies come into the library in clumps? Can’t someone come up with an algorithm so that my movie requests are spread out, instead of avalanching on me three in one week? Coraline, based on Neil Gaiman’s young-adult novel, was the third DVD this week. Like Where the Wild Things Are, it’s based on a children’s book, but is better for older kids and adults. There’s scary stuff and creepy imagery.

Coraline and her inattentive parents move into an apartment complex peopled with strange characters, like a mouse-circus ringmaster and two aging stage performer sisters. Largely ignored by her parents, Coraline discovers a secret passage to a similar house, where she meets her “other mother.” The other mother looks and sounds like her mother, but nicer. She feeds Coraline good food and offers to play with her, things that don’t happen in Coraline’s regular life. Unsurprisingly, things at the “other” house turn out to be too good to be true:

Other Mother: You know, you could stay forever, if you want to. There’s one tiny thing we have to do first…

Coraline is a clever, engaging young heroine of the Miyazaki tradition in this stop-motion animation horror movie. The director, Henry Selick, also helmed The Nightmare Before Christmas. Watching, I was also reminded of The Triplets of Bellville and Pan’s Labyrinth. This is an intriguing, visually interesting twist on the “be careful what you wish for” admonishment.

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