‘Coraline’ is mighty fine

The new adaptation of the Neil Gaiman story takes audiences through the metaphorical rabbit hole.

Coraline stumbles upon the fantastic button world. PHOTO COURTESY FOCUS FEATURES.

Ashley Goetz

Coraline stumbles upon the fantastic button world. PHOTO COURTESY FOCUS FEATURES.

“CoralineâÄù DIRECTED BY: Henry Selick STARRING: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Keith David RATED: PG PLAYING: Area Theaters When âÄúCoralineâÄù was published in 2002, it was met with widespread critical acclaim. Within one year, the fantasy story won the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award for Best Novella and the Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers . Now, âÄúCoralineâÄù comes to the silver screen as a wonderfully crafted animated dream that faithfully adheres to writer Neil GaimanâÄôs macabre vision. Gaiman has been getting a lot of press these days and deserves it all. His most recent opus, âÄúThe Graveyard Book,âÄù is a remarkable fantasy filled with all the wonders and horrors of classic Gaiman fiction and just received a Newbery Award . But while âÄúThe Graveyard BookâÄù and âÄúCoralineâÄù are billed as childrenâÄôs stories, they are also filled with complexities and terrors that only an adult could fully appreciate. ItâÄôs a tale that pays homage to âÄúAlice in Wonderland ;âÄù the young Coraline Jones, tired of her humdrum life and seemingly impassive parents, stumbles into an alternate world where, unlike Lewis CarrollâÄô s classic, everyone has ominous black buttons instead of eyes. These minor character defects donâÄôt discourage the daring Coraline, and she spends the following nights taking refuge among the marvels of her extravagant new universe. But soon the true nature of her Other Mother comes to light, and Coraline is forced to play a deadly scavenger hunt to save her soul. The film is expertly constructed by celebrated director Henry Selick, who is best known for the cult classic âÄúThe Nightmare Before ChristmasâÄù and his amazing adaptation of âÄúJames and the Giant Peach .âÄù Selick employs the same stop-motion animation techniques from previous ventures to create a powerful dichotomy between CoralineâÄôs real and Other world. Her home world is dull and grey but never loses its inherent surreal quality, showing characters with distorted features and daunting landscapes. In contrast, the Other world is a vibrant and dynamic place where ordinary things come to life and characters perform spectacular displays for Coraline before morphing into terrifying fragmentations of their true selves. The animation throughout is breathtaking and is the perfect vehicle for GaimanâÄôs imaginative yarn. Selick also utilized the technology of the day, 3-D vision, while making the film. âÄúCoralineâÄù might be the only movie in history that actually helped 3-D find ground as a legitimate technique. Selick used it to create depth, and it works brilliantly; instead of things flying at you constantly, as is the mark of 3-D films past, it feels as though you are walking into the movie, just like that weird kid from âÄúThe Last Action Hero.âÄù The most notable instances of this phenomenon are when Coraline enters the hidden tunnel to the Other world; it feels as though you are inside that tunnel with her, crawling across the rubbery, swaying floor, and the result is truly stunning. On the flipside, it makes the scary events that much scarier, because you experience them firsthand and not behind the safety net of the flat movie screen. Rounding out the solid film is a remarkable cast. Each one of the actors skillfully captures the essences of their respective characters. Teri Hatcher is relatable as an overworked parent and is truly terrifying as the Other mother. Her dulcet voice lulls the audience into a false sense of security before she reveals her true nature and her soft voice melts into a series of deranged, unstable shrieks. Keith David, who is probably best known as the voice-over guy from all those Navy commercials, provides the voice of the cat that helps Coraline in the Other world. His dark and gravelly purr projects a deep sense of foreboding and forces the protagonist to take heed. Even the normally intolerable Dakota Fanning, who is apparently the only child actress left in Hollywood, gives a winning performance. Her voice is goofy enough to make her sound cartoonish but sweet enough to be endearing. ItâÄôs always worrying when a great book is tapped for a film adaptation, because the translation often destroys everything that made the original so incredible. Fortunately, Selick is a pro. He managed to keep GaimanâÄôs meaning while adding his own signature flair to the work. The result is a spectacular vision that will undeniably gain acceptance into the pantheon of the animated film classics.