The Jones family have just moved into a new home and like most children Coraline (Dakota Fanning) enjoys exploring her new surroundings. It is a good job that young Coraline can keep herself amused as her mom (Teri Hatcher) and dad (John Hodgman) are to busy with their work to pay her any attention or show her any affection. When Caroline discovers a small door it leads her into another world, almost another parallel dimension where her mum and dad are but this time they are the perfect, loving parents. The only thing is that they have buttons for their eyes and if Coraline wants to stay she will have to be buttoned up as well.
For those who are unaware director Henry Selick is the man who prior to giving us "Coraline" gave us "The Nightmare Before Christmas". Now the first time I watched "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is did little for me and was only some years later that it started to grow on me and I would imagine "Coraline" will be the same. You see I don't hate "Coraline"; it is an impressive movie, a real visual treat but one with that dark humour which doesn't suit everyone.
Now from the word go "Coraline" is stunning, the artistry in creating this fantasy world is amazing especially when you learn it is stop motion. It is hard to believe because not only is it visually some of the most detailed stop motion I have ever seen but it is so smooth that you keep on questioning whether it is or isn't. In fact the level of artistry is one of the movies problems because it dwarfs everything else, you are so struck by the look that the characterisations and the storyline itself end up becoming a bit of an after thought.
Now that is a shame as there is a well chosen group of actors who provide the voices with both Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher doing a fantastic job of bringing to life their characters. But every time you just start to get a bit of characterisation the movie reverts back to trying to impress visually. At the same time it also tries to distract with some dark humour and so the whole of "Coraline" ends up feeling like a magic trick where it is constantly trying to distract you from the basic idea of a storyline and characters.
What this all boils down to is that "Coraline" is undoubtedly visually one of the best stop motion scenes you will ever see, it lifts things to another level. Unfortunately the detail is so great that it actually ends up distracting you from the dark fairytale story.