An 11-year-old girl, Coraline, moves to an unappealing, run-down home in Ashland, Oregon part of the Pink Palace apartments. She misses her friends from Pontiac, Michigan, where she had lived prior.
If that’s not bad enough, Coraline doesn’t have the best relationship with her parents, especially her mom, who is quite harsh.
When they’re on their computers, Coraline tries to talk to them. But they dismiss her since they do not want her to bother them. They tell her to explore the house instead, even outside after it rains.
Disappointed with them, Coraline wishes that they were better. She encounters a black cat, who is carrying a ragdoll that resembles her. The doll leads her to a strange, little door behind a brick wall, and a key to open it. It leads her to an alternate world.
She enters what looks like her kitchen. But what surprises her are her “other parents.” They have buttons as eyes and seem sweet and more caring than her real ones.
They offer her a nice dinner, consisting of more appealing food, such as baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and rolls. They also provide her a cake to “welcome her home” and allow her to have freedom.
They are willing to pay attention to her, too, something she wishes her actual parents would do. But after she goes to bed in the other world, she wakes up back in her world.
She tells her parents about the place with her other parents. But they will not believe her. In fact, others, including this boy she isn’t fond of, called Wybie, find her crazy. She tries to convince everyone that the “other world” exists yet fails each time.
But her neighbors, Bobinsky, Ms. Forcible, and Ms. Spink, warn her that she is in danger. The tea leaves that Ms. Forcible and Ms. Spink provide for her reveal that.
Still unhappy with her life in the real world, Coraline returns to the other world. There, she meets the other Wybie, who is mute. The two see Bobinsky’s mice perform in a circus.
But after her parents claim that she was dreaming, Coraline returns to the other world… only for her to be offered buttons to sew onto her eyes, which she refuses. Her “other mother” reveals herself as a monstrous, arachnid being who wants to keep her and destroy her.
She even locks her up inside a dungeon, where a few ghosts of children who have died, including Wybie’s great aunt there tell her what had happened to them. The “other mother,” who is part of the Beldam, uses ragdolls to lure children into this world and make them happy… until she reveals that to be a trap. Then she will take their souls.
Not long after, Coraline goes back to the real world—but her parents are missing. After being unable to find or contact them, she learns that they have been abducted to the other world. Will she succeed in saving them? Or will she fail?
I admire how the characters were developed, especially Coraline. I felt sorry for her when her parents were too unfair, particularly her mother.
For instance, there is a scene where Coraline is shopping and wants to buy some gloves. But her mom demands that she put them back.
Her father, although also kind of unlikable, was a little bit better than her mom when it came to how he treated her. He would stay calmer and more patient in situations where Coraline’s mother would snap at her.
One example is when they are having dinner the first night at the new house. Coraline complains about the spinach resembling slime. Her father says that it’s either slime time or bed time for her—but in a more laid-back manner.
Another strength is the dialogue and how authentic it was. Every line played an important role in the story and even sounded different per character.
Coraline would talk in an unhappy tone while her neighbor, Mr. B, would be a little more enthusiastic. This defined a lot about them and their personalities.
As a stop-motion movie, the animation excelled, especially the special effects. From the supernatural beams to electric lights, I applaud the talent the animators put into it.
That being said, the film started out a bit dull, even with Coraline’s parents being very unfair to her. But the story intensified as it progressed, keeping me more worried about what was going to happen. The second half even scared me, which I would never have expected from a PG-rated movie.
Once the “other mother” turned out to be a monster, I experienced goosebumps and blood rushing through my veins. So, although the intended audience isn’t restricted, I would not recommend letting younger kids under age 10 see this film. Even older children need to be able to handle the level of horror the movie has.
But overall, Coraline was a good watch with a strong plot that had adventures and lots of twists and turns. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.