Coraline Dazzles Audiences


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Coraline travels through the womb-like portal to the Other World.

Photo: LAIKA Entertainment

I’m sure I’m not the first feminist to notice this, but as I was sitting in the theater, watching the latest film from Henry Selick, Coraline, I couldn’t help but think, When will adult women get their turn?

Yes, it seems that the film and literary worlds only like plucky, curious, smart, adventurous females when we’re adolescent. From Alice in Wonderland to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and Dora the Explorer to Nancy Drew or Wendy from Peter Pan, it seems that females only get the fun and interesting stories when we’re 16 and under.

Coraline is no exception. Based on edgy writer Neil Gaiman’s horror novella, the film is like an update, albeit a slightly twisted update, of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, complete with a talking cat that disappears, an evil queen, an alternative universe reached only by a tunnel-portal behind a small door, and the ever-present need to get home.

The film is fabulous eye candy, that’s for sure, and the 3D effects draw the viewer in, creating a wonderful way to spend an hour or two. The story line, while a riff on the old Alice story, is still solid. The atmosphere is eerie from the beginning and, as chronically bored Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) finds her way behind the tiny door in the wall, things get creepier and darker. There’s something just a little off about the parallel universe where everything is better and more colorful, including the charaters of  Miss Forcible and Miss Spink (Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders), Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane), not to mention her Other Mother (Terry Hatcher). When Other Mother asks Coraline to stay permanently, the film takes the dark twist towards the finale. Coraline must be clever in order to free herself and her loved ones from Other Mother’s grasp.

While it is a great ride for the PG and up crowd and I was feeling pumped after the credits, my female confidence in Hollywood died a little when I got out of the theater to see a movie poster for He’s Just Not That in to You. If there were ever a contrast to be made between movies, there it was staring me in the face. Somehow, all these smart, courageous girls I idolized as a child had turned into women lost in their lives without a man or a sassy best friend to guide them. Are these typical chick flick (ugh) characters really the adult versions of Alice, Wendy, Dora, Nancy and now Coraline?

I loved the film, but I look forward to the day when Coraline grows up and is still the adventurous, independent woman the film hints she will become.

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