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  Movie Review


By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Since its publication in 2002, Neil Gaiman's best-selling novel "Coraline" (Focus) -- which won the American Library Association's Best Book for Young Adults prize -- has been adapted as a short film, a graphic novel, a Swedish play and even a puppet show.

Writer-director Henry Selick's vibrantly colorful 3-D animated feature-length version of this cautionary tale, though eerie, proves entrancing as it chronicles its titular character's (voice of Dakota Fanning) moral development.

With her unnamed mother (voice of Teri Hatcher) and father (voice of John Hodgman) hard at work collaborating on a garden catalog, only child Coraline feels neglected and bored. So she sets out to explore her family's portion of the large Victorian-style Oregon house to which they've just moved, and discovers a child-size doorway that initially opens on nothing more than a brick wall, but that later leads into a mysterious passageway.

At the other end lies an alternate world inhabited by versions of Mom and Dad that Coraline finds more accommodating -- and so more to her taste -- than the real ones. But these doubles, whose only physical difference from the originals is that, unsettlingly, they have buttons instead of eyes, soon reveal sinister plans for their new charge, placing her in peril.

As she learns the truth of the old admonition about making wishes carefully, Coraline overcomes selfishness, learns to appreciate her blessings and draws closer to family and friends. The latter include a trio of eccentric neighbors, two elderly British actresses, Miss Spink (voice of Jennifer Saunders) and Miss Forcible (voice of Dawn French), and Russian gymnast Mr. Bobinsky (whimsically voiced by Ian McShane).

Coraline also learns to be more accepting of another neighbor, a young boy named Wybie Lovat (Robert Bailey Jr.), whom she at first dismisses as a pest but eventually comes to appreciate.

This extravaganza -- which uses the animation technique of stop-motion -- is marvelously fanciful; at one point, a character recites Shakespeare while swinging on a trapeze. And the details with which Selick ("The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "James and the Giant Peach") adorns the outwardly alluring realm of "Other Mother" and "Other Father" -- along with set pieces like the one featuring a vast circus of performing mice -- are a visual treat.

But, though the moral arc is upward, the elements listed below, together with an edgy atmosphere throughout, preclude recommendation for young children.

The film contains brief partial nudity, frightening images and a few mildly bawdy lyrics. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

- - -

Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.


Copyright (c) 2009 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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