Coraline (review)

A lonely little girl, full of verve and imagination and left to fend for herself by busy parents, stumbles into a sinister magical trap. Or maybe she dreams it all. Or maybe it’s both forbidding fancy and cheerless candor at the same time. This elemental tale of childhood fantasies and nightmares, the joint vision of animator Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) and author Neil Gaiman (Stardust), strikes a fragile, grimly graceful balance redolent of The Wizard of Oz and Harry Potter in its uncomfortable honesty about the dark side of being a kid. While exploring her new home, 11-year-old Coraline Jones (the voice of Dakota Fanning: Push) stumbles across a mysterious little door, and of course she can’t resist exploring. On the other side: an alternate version of her life, with attentive parents and marvels galore. Though we, like savvy Coraline herself, feel that something-bad edging toward us in this too-good-to-be-true place, we cannot help being dazzled by this wondrous world, where a garden blooms when the moon rises and we are entertained by a fantastical circus of performing jumping mice. Honestly: there were moments here when I wanted to jump up and cheer at the fresh and glorious visions Selick, Gaiman, and their team of ingenious designers and stop-motion animators present to us. Deeply creepy even while it’s deeply charming, this is a miracle of a movie.

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