Think Alice in Wonderland as written by Stephen King, and you’ll
have an idea of what to expect of Stardust author Neil Gaiman’s
“children’s book” Coraline . . .
Gaiman’s book is currently being made into a 3-D CG
animated movie by the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
One poster on Internet Movie Database who has read the book complains that
Gaiman’s book should be made into a live action movie instead of an
The only problem is that if Coraline were to be
live action, it’d be a horror movie unsuitable for children. As it is,
Coraline is pretty darned scary and one can easily imagine it giving
children nine years and older nightmares. It is not exactly bedtime reading
for the very impressionable. Then again, readers accustomed to
the toned-down Walt Disney animated movie of Alice In Wonderland
are usually surprised by just how downright malicious and surreal Lewis
Carroll’s beloved children’s classic can be . . .
Like Alice, Coraline – the titular heroine of Gaiman’s
book – travels to a surreal upside down world from which she tries to
escape again. Coraline and her parents move into a new apartment. The
apartment was part of a much bigger house and there is a brick wall where
a door used to be. Except, one day the brick wall has disappeared and
Coraline goes through it. On the other side she finds a skewed version of
her own reality presided over by her “other mother”. Her “other mother”
looks just like her real-life mother – except she has two big black
buttons sewed over her eyes. And oh yeah, her hair wriggles “like lazy
snakes on a warm day” and she has teeth “as sharp as knives.”
Forget about Coraline running into the Mad Hatter or
something similar though. Here is a description of one of the creatures
she comes across:
“…the thing was pale and swollen, like a grub, with
thin, stick-like arms and feet. It had almost no features on its face,
which had puffed and swollen like risen bread dough.”
More Stephen King than the Cheshire cat, even though
there is a cocky, talking cat to help Coraline during her adventures.
"One can easily imagine it giving small children nightmares . . ."
Her “other mother” wants Coraline to stay, but she
instead returns to the real world where she discovers that her parents
have disappeared into thin air, no doubt having been spirited away by her
“other mother.” Coraline realizes that she has to face her “other mother”
if she is to get her parents back . . .
Coraline is more Sandman than
Stardust. It’s pretty dark stuff, and
clocking in at a brisk 183 pages or so in a wide-spaced font, it is
Stephen King-lite for the Harry Potter
set. (After all, kids too like being scared, you know.) Reading it, one
can easily imagine why director Henry Selick would be interested in the
material. After all, the director has built his reputation by directing
two other “dark” children’s tales namely James and the Giant Peach
(based on a Roald Dahl story) and The Nightmare Before Christmas
(with a story by Tim Burton). One can so easily imagine this to be a
“Corpse Bride Part II” that one is quite surprised not to find Tim
Burton’s name anywhere in the credits. Using 3-D CG animation to replicate
the look and feel of Gaiman’s book is a serious no-brainer and this is
confirmed by the teaser trailer (see below) which makes one echo the
movie’s tagline of “Oh...My...Gosh!”
Less of a no-brainer is the interesting voice cast
assembled. Unsurprisingly Dakota Fanning will be voicing Coraline herself.
More surprising though is getting Teri Hatcher best-known as Lois Lane
from the Lois & Clark TV series to voice both Coraline’s mother and
her creepy “other mother.” The rest of the voice cast though seems spot
on: Ian McShane as Mr. Bobinski, Keith David as the wise ass cat and
Jennifer Saunders (Fairy Godmother in Shrek 2) as Miss Forcible. At
least there won’t be any “name” stars to distract as the tendency in CG
animated movies nowadays. Why cast Angelina Jolie in Kung Fu Panda
if you don’t even recognize her voice? Aren’t there other more talented
voice artists out there who need the money more out there?
Coraline looks quite promising thus far and
would appeal to the same small audiences who went to see the Goth
Nightmare Before Christmas and
The Corpse Bride. We’re just not that convinced you can safely take
your small children. Best you go see it yourself first . . .