Women On Film – “Coraline” – Susan Granger reviews

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This inventive story is full of dark surprises and nightmarish images, along with moments of lush, surreal beauty, as resourceful Coraline learns valuable life lessons.

Cinematic wizardry never ceases to amaze, and now director Henry Selick (“The Nightmare Before Christmas”) and author Neil Gaiman (“Sandman”) have created first feature-length fantasy to be conceived and photographed in stereoscopic 3-D.

Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is a lonely 11 year-old whose family has relocated from Michigan to Oregon. Missing her friends and reminded that her parents (voiced by Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman) are preoccupied with writing a garden catalogue, she makes friends with the eccentric neighbors in the quaint Pink Palace apartment house. Downstairs are retired British actresses (voiced by Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French) with their faithful Scotties and, upstairs, a Russian acrobat, Mr. Bobinsky (voiced Ian McShane) who trains acrobatic circus mice. And she’s also befriended by annoying Wybie Lovat (Robert Bailey Jr.,), a local boy about her own age.

But Coraline’s real adventure begins when she uncovers a secret passageway. Crawling through, she discovers an alternate version of her life – only better. At home, where her dad cooks and her mom cleans, Coraline is expected to stay out of their way. But in this weird realm, her button-eyed Other Mother (also voiced by Teri Hatcher) plies her with yummy treats.

There’s just one problem: her Other Mother insists that if Coraline wants to stay, she must have shiny buttons sewn over her eyes too. That’s terrifying – and Coraline senses that beneath her Other Mother’s schemes, something’s terribly wrong. With the help of a wily cat (voiced by Keith David), she finds three ghost children who were lured in by the manipulative Other Mother and soon realizes her real parents are in danger.

This inventive story is full of dark surprises and nightmarish images, along with moments of lush, surreal beauty, as resourceful Coraline learns valuable life lessons. At the animation studio LAIKA, two separate photos were taken for every frame of the film, then precisely interfaced to achieve the depth perception. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Coraline” is a scary, sinister 7, aimed at children age eight or over. But be sure to view it in 3-D because that’s where the creepy magic is hidden.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.