"Coraline"

Monday, February 16, 2009

My instincts told me that Coraline would be okay for Sam to see, so we went out on a special outing this afternoon, just the two of us, to see it. I made popcorn before we left to save a little money, hiding it in my purse, and we arrived at the theater about 30 minutes early--plenty of time to find a good seat and enjoy the previews (new Disney-Pixar film, Up, which will be out later this year, looks like it will be really good).

So . . . Coraline. This is a hi-def, stop-motion feature animation filmed in stereoscopic 3D, making other computer-generated animations seem sub-par. Alternate reality, fantastical and horrific, a modern, yet macabre setting in an old Victorian house with secrets from the past (traditionally, fairy tales contain castles, and this film manages to make the Victorian look castle-like with its surrounding gardens with terraced rock walls), the imaginative and exploratory nature of a young child, provocatively creepy, a magical and enchanted garden, a night circus, a deep well, all the elements of a fairy tale (a moral ("be careful what you wish for"), magical elements, a villain, a good character, things that happen in 3's (the three ghost children, the three dogs belonging to the two former actresses, three sets of eyes, three apartments, the list goes on . . .), and the mysterious tunnel that is the passageway between her two realities with little kangaroo mice that lure her, beckoning her to another world. This film was amazing, and I've just put the book by Neil Gaiman, which has the same title, on my Bookmooh wishlist. I've always been fascinated by books and/or films that have an alternative reality with a secret passageway (e.g. Alice and Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Being John Malkovich). Coraline was no exception.

Although I was unsure at first, Coraline wasn't too scary for Sam--in fact, he really liked it, and came away with several questions. I agree with director Henry Selick that society is too over-protective of children in general. I remember being a child and becoming engrossed in books that were taken away from me because of a villainous character that was deemed too evil or being disallowed from seeing movies for the same reason (no offense, Mom!). I know this is a controversial topic, but I tend to expose Sam to a variety of things (to an extent) if he expresses interest, rather than shielding him from anything that might provoke fear or anxiety. This doesn't mean I'm going to let him watch Friday the 13th, but an animated film like Coraline, which is scary in only a few places, and which was a film he expressed interest in seeing, is not something from which I'm going to restrict him. I do believe kids need guidance and boundaries, but I don't necessarily think they should be restricted from feeling scared. Selick believes kids can handle a lot more in film and reading material than we give them credit for. This isn't the first time I've heard this. I remember my favorite English professor in college, Ursula Irwin, once passed around an article written on this very topic. I wish I could locate the article as it made a good argument and was quite convincing. I'll have to e-mail her and locate it. For now, read Selick's comments about children and film in this article, Frightful delights: Coraline director defends children's right to be scared. And do go and see Coraline--it's really good!

2 comments:

Aviva said...

I'm glad Sam was able to enjoy Coraline. But from what I'm hearing from other parents who have taken their kids to see it, it really depends on the kid whether it's going to be too much.

Here's what one friend wrote on FB:
"My kids are 5, 7, 12, 13. We were with another family of kids 4, 6, 11. Only the 6 year old enjoyed the movie. The 4 year old cried, the 5 year old begged to leave...as did my husband. The 7 year old says, "Don't go. It's too scary and creepy." I actually took a nap somewhere between the delivery of the stinky cheese and the fat lady in the sequin thong and tassles. Note: my kids are not sheltered...even the little ones have seen RENT, Avenue Q, etc... But this movie is DARK and creepy. I think the clincher that got to the kids was when the "other mother" who has been the perfect mother all along suddenly turns into a mad, evil murderer made of sewing needles who is trying to kill Coraline."

Her mini review was more detailed than most of my friends have shared (and, fwiw, her kids are all boys), but it seems to be a pretty common theme.

I think it's great to let the individual kid decide what's too much, unless you have clear experience that, for example, scary movies ALWAYS give your child nightmares. I too read far beyond age-level as a child, but I was lucky that I could read any book I wanted that was in the library, whether it was from the children's section or the adult section. (I was obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft during my tween years, so you know I like creepy. :)

I won't be taking Ellie to Coraline because she has such a short attention span for movies. But I'm looking forward to seeing it myself.

Karli said...

I agree, it depends on your kid.

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