MPAA rating: PG
Genre: Family, Animated
In this animated adventure from the director of "Nightmare Before Christmas," a small girl discovers a door in her home which leads to a skewed version of her own life.
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Ian McShane
Director: Henry Selick
Running time: 1:40
Release: Opened Feb 6, 2009

Editorial Review

As we consume ever more sophisticated forms of animation, it's easy to lose sight of the emotional connections we seek under all the technological fireworks.

When you watch "Coraline," it's easy to admire its imaginative fusion of low tech and high. But with stereoscopic 3-D, high definition and computer-generated effects added to the equation, the movie becomes supercharged with in-your-face palpability. (Find a theater showing the movie in 3-D for the full experience; most theaters will show it in the 2-D format.) We feel as if we could reach out and caress the characters' smoothly rounded faces or tweak the lacquered strands of their shiny hair. The problem is, we just don't want to hug them.

The movie, adapted from Neil Gaiman's enormously successful book of the same name, follows 11-year-old Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning), whose wish to replace the adults in her life leads to a nightmarish experience in a parallel universe. She finds herself in another world where charming replicas of her parents invite her to live with them. There's a major hitch, of course. Coraline's "Other Mother" (Teri Hatcher) makes her a prisoner and demands unyielding devotion.

For all its visual delights, however, "Coraline" remains more an engaging spectacle than a connective drama.

That is chiefly because of the writing. Director-writer Henry Selick doesn't reach for the kind of universality that would enrich the movie.

It's a shame because Fanning's performance is the movie's most emotionally persuasive element. Her assured modulations, from cheeky to sweet, from bored to anguished, should have been part of a bigger, deeper movie. Unfortunately, the screenplay is one humanistic rewrite away from realizing that. Animation's great purpose isn't merely to build superhighways to imagined worlds. It's to show us new footpaths to the human heart.

-- Desson Thomson (Feb. 6, 2009)

Contains scary images, mild profanity and suggestive humor.