Coraline is a young girl whose parents always seem to be too busy for her. To make matters worse, she is stuck living in an old house with strange neighbours in the adjoined suites. Having just moved in, her mother suggests that she passes the time unpacking; her father absently suggests that she explore the new house, counting all the windows and doors. She decides to do the latter which leads to the discovery of a strange, locked door in the front room. When she unlocks it, she finds only a brick wall on the other side.
Later, however, the door opens to quite a different place, a place that is familiar and yet, better. Her "other" parents dote on her and make sure she is always happy. She is confused but happy and has no idea at first how much is really at risk.
Coraline is based on the best-selling book by Neil Gaiman. While the plot stays fairly true to the original text, additional characters have been added to explain things which, in the book, were left to the reader to figure out. Happily, though, the movie is just as tense and scary as the book -- scary enough that many reviewers are suggesting it is not suitable for young children. Our not-quite-8 year-old accompanied us, however, and loved it but we also took her to see Tim Burton's Corpse Bride in the theatre at age 5.
Technically, Coraline is a wonder to watch. Filmed in stop-motion animation on sets filled with hand-crafted wonders, there is far too much in each scene to take in during a single viewing. Coraline is also being released in 3D format (which we saw) which can be a bit disorienting but is a good fit for this movie. I will admit that I am not a huge fan of 3D as a rule but it is used well here, giving dimension to her world rather than making the audience jump.
Often, animated films depend on good vocal performances and the actors here did a fine job. Terri Hatcher was ideally cast as the mother/other mother and what the other mother turns into and Spink and Forcible were played perfectly by Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.
Overall, this film is well-worth seeing on the big screen. It may scare small children but most will be fine and a few may even want to read the book which I highly recommend.