Re-Watch: Coraline (2009)

Director: Henry Selick
Writer: Henry Selick
Based on: Neil Gaiman’s book
Cast: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn FrenchKeith David, Robert Bailey Jr.
Seen on: 8.12.2016
[Here’s my first review.]

Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) moves with her parents (Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman) to a new house. Her parents are always busy so Coraline is left to explore things alone. One day she discovers a hidden door in her house and when she goes through, she meets her Other Mother, who is everything a child could hope for and more. But her Other Mother has buttons for her eyes. She wants Coraline to stay, but for that, Coraline will need to give up her eyes as well…

Coraline is a sweet and very beautiful film, although not unproblematic in some things. I liked it, but with a little more reservation than the first time round.

The biggest change between book and film is the introduction of Wybie, a young boy who is not in the book at all. And while I did like that the film adds a person of color to the story (or actually two in him and his grandmother – although it only becomes really obvious that he is black when you see his grandmother, I think), this helped neither the feminist potential of the story (as Wybie takes a lot of Coraline’s strength to get to be the hero a couple of times), nor the racist stereotypes regarding the Eastern European Mr Bobo (I think he never actually gets a clear country of origin).

There were some other changes – like the portrayal of the Other Mother as a spider (which I could have done without – she is scary enough as is) and the children Coraline meets on the other side as little angels (which was a bit much for me), or the emphasis of the garden and the added songs (which I both loved). But none impacted the story as much as the introduction of Wybie, in my opinion.

But whether you prefer the book version of the story or the movie version, there is no doubt that the movie looks gorgeous and is a really nice watch. It’s fantastically creative, scary and wonderfully animated. So even if I have my doubts about the changes from the book and my doubts about the story in the book in the first place, it’s still a really good film (and one that would lend itself to a psychoanalyst deconstruction. Just look at that tunnel below).

Summarizing: Very well done.

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