Wednesday, February 25, 2009


A few days ago I saw the movie CORALINE, based on Neil Gaiman's best-selling children's fantasy. The movie was in 3-D, which I hadn't experienced since I was eleven years old, and the trailers included previews for two more 3-D movies. Evidently they are making a come-back. It was fun to see things suddenly leap out at me from the screen. And the 3-D glasses are a big improvement from the cardboard ones of my childhood.

I also liked the movie, which has wonderful animation. However, my friend Barbara, who does not see as many YA or children's movies as I do, was appalled at the story line. "I would never bring a child to see this movie!" she said. "It's horrifying!"

CORALINE is about a child who feels neglected by her parents, who both work hard at dead-line jobs and who have moved her to a new apartment in an isolated country mansion. She encounters a secret doorway that leads her to an alternate reality with "better" versions of her parents -- the mother cooks, the father plays games with her, the house is clean and cared for, they buy her things and read to her. However, they have buttons for eyes. Eventually, the mother is revealed as a controlling witch who wants to gouge out Coraline's eyes and sew buttons in their place, to keep Coraline there forever, and -- the movie's words -- to be "a mother who devours my life." There is a lot of exciting action before Coraline and her male friend, Hansel-and-Gretel like, push what's left of the witch down a deep well (as opposed to an oven.) Daughter kills controlling mother and wins her own life.

My friend's objection was: These are the choices? A neglectful mother or a devouring one? She has a point. And yet, CORALINE is only following in the footsteps of the original Grimm fairy tales (not the cleaned-up Disney versions) in which the violence is horrific and the family relationships often involve neglect, cruelty, or the passive acquiescence to cruelty (as in Hansel and Gretel's father). One theory says that such stories are good for kids; they let them externalize their own dark thoughts.

Would I take an eight-year-old to see CORALINE? I don't know. Since at the moment my life includes no eight-year-olds, I don't have to make that decision. Which is not really an answer at all.


Jonathan Sherwood said...

I may be a horrible parent, but I took my seven- and four-year-old daughters to see the movie. I wasn't as impressed as I'd hoped I'd be, but the girls loved it. I've come to realize that they - and probably most of their generation - are more "worldly" than I was at their ages. I think the theme that came through for them was how much they love even the most drab of parents (phew!).

Chris said...

I took my 7-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter, and they both loved it. LOVED it. As did my husband and I, actually.

It has led to some long and interesting discussions about being careful what you wish for, taking responsibility for your own happiness (my son's idea, not mine), and how real love means giving you what you need, not necessarily what you want.

Ruhan Zhao said...

My 9-year-old son read the book before, and bothered me everyday to watch the movie. So I took him to watch it, and he loved it.

After the movie, he read Graveyard Book and also loved it. In fact, he loved it so much that he is trying to draw the cover of Graveyard book himself. Now I am glad that we share a favorate author.

cd said...

I took my nine year old. She was a little bit scared, alas. She'd read the book twice, so that apparently means the visual images were particularly scary to some kids....