Story

Coraline Jones (voice of Dakota Fanning) is an unhappy child. She feels neglected by her parents (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) after they move to an old house in the country. Busy with deadlines and dreams, her parents have no time for her and are irritated by her questions and constant pestering.

Coraline’s neighbour Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr) gives her an odd-looking doll that he found in his grandmother’s attic. The doll looks almost exactly like Coraline. It is really a spy for an evil, spider-like creature from another world. The creature uses handcrafted dolls to see into the lives of children. Then the creature lures the children to her world by giving them all the wonderful things that they feel are missing from their own.

The portal to the creature’s world is a small doorway in Coraline’s bedroom, which Coraline finds. At first, she feels like she’s found the life she always wished that she’d had. She has parents who talk to her and are interested in everything she does, a mother who cooks delicious meals, and nicer versions of her neighbours.

But the more that Coraline visits this world, the more she begins to see that things are not as they seem. She soon finds herself in a struggle to escape and return to her real life.

Themes

Kidnapping; separation from parents; children as victims

Violence

This movie contains some violence. For example:

  • Coraline kills heaps of bugs by slapping and smashing them into the walls.
  • Coraline frequently punches Wybie.
  • A cat kills a mouse who turns out to be a rat spy for the ‘other mother’ – a version of Coraline’s real mother in the other world.
  • The other mother roughly grabs Coraline and throws her through a wall into another room.
  • Coraline is attacked by plants and flowers, which try to drag her down under a bridge.
  • Coraline throws a cat at the other mother. The mother and the cat fight, and the cat claws the mother’s eyes out.
  • Coraline and the ghost children cut off the other mother’s hand in a doorway.
  • In the middle of the night, Coraline goes to a deep, dark well, intending to throw the key to the other world down into the abyss. The other mother’s severed hand has followed her and tries to take it back. It is dragging Coraline towards the well when Wybie saves her. Then he ends up hanging over the side of the well himself. The severed hand stabs at Wybie’s hands and tries to make him fall in. Coraline smashes the hand with a large rock, and together she and Wybie throw it into the deep well.
  • Coraline kicks at the cat.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, this movie contains some scenes that could scare or disturb children aged 5-8. For example:

  • When someone from the other world does something that the other mother doesn’t like, she ‘adjusts’ them. She screws up Wybie’s face and completely contorts the other father’s face. The expressions on the characters’ faces look very strange. These scenes are quite suspenseful, and could frighten younger viewers.
  • A motorcycle-riding skeleton with three, green glowing eyes chases Coraline. This creature later turns out to be Wybie, but it is very sudden, loud and menacing.
  • The other mother changes from someone who is the image of Coraline’s real mother into an angry, evil-looking creature.
  • After being locked away by the other mother, the ghosts of three children tell Coraline a scary story. They say that after the other mother sewed buttons on their eyes, she hid their eyes and ate up their lives. A talking cat also says that the other mother likes to eat children.
  • The other mother forces the other father to attack Coraline. He attempts to do this with his large grasshopper invention, clawing and snapping and reaching out to hurt her. He manages to destroy a bridge and then drowns himself and the grasshopper. A terrified Coraline just manages to escape.
  • While searching for the children’s eyes, Coraline enters a vast auditorium filled with countless creatures with snarling teeth and red glowing eyes. Coraline finds one of the eyes she is searching for inside a pouch. As she reaches in to grab it, a hand grabs her and two horrible figures burst out of the sack. They hold onto Coraline and try to get the eye back from her. Coraline gets the bats to attack the two creatures from the sack.
  • As the other world collapses, the other mother begins to show cracks in her skin. Parts of her body become metallic, rough and spider like. She quickly spins a web and tries to trap Coraline in it. Coraline must climb for her life towards the door.
  • Coraline escapes through a tunnel towards her bedroom. First she must battle the severed hand of her other mother.

From 8-13

Some of the scenes mentioned above could also disturb children in this age group.

Over 13

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.

Sexual references

None of concern

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

This movie contains some use of substances. For example:

  • Characters talk about the upstairs neighbour being a drunk.
  • When Coraline offers a guest some lemonade, the guest requests that she put some gin in it.

Nudity and sexual activity

This movie contains some nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • One of the retired vaudeville performers who live in a basement apartment under Coraline’s house repeatedly shows a lot of cleavage. Her breasts take up half her body and bulge out of her clothes.
  • The other versions of these performers put on a show. During the show, one of them wears a girdle while another wears nothing but a very skimpy g-string. There seems to be a pattern of jewels over her nipples, but the rest of her breasts are completely exposed.

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

This movie contains some very mild coarse language, as well as some name-calling.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Coraline is an animated thriller containing some appealing but creepy special effects. Because of the themes and scary scenes, it is not a family film. It is more for older children and anyone who likes 3D special effects.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Be careful about what you wish for because you just might get it.
  • Be grateful for what you have because things could always be worse.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include friendship, resourcefulness and compassion for others. Also, this movie could give you the opportunity to discuss with your children the importance of communication and empathy in maintaining healthy relationships.

The movie also reminds parents to watch their words and the way that they speak to their children.