Plenty of people dismiss animated features as mere "cartoons."

These days, however, far too many live-action movies truly are cartoons — flat, exaggerated and dumbed-down.

But "Coraline" — the latest animated feature from stop-motion wizard Henry Selick — exhibits far more artistry, and more humanity, than plenty of so-called "real" movies.

Thanks (or no thanks) to his association with Tim Burton, Selick doesn’t get the credit he deserves for directing 1993’s "The Nightmare Before Christmas," which has become a holiday-season staple.

Selick struck out on his own for 1996’s fanciful "James and the Giant Peach," based on the book by Roald Dahl.

And with "Coraline," the animator adapts another storybook favorite: Neil Gaiman’s satisfyingly shivery tale of a little girl whose curiosity leads her to some very unsettling discoveries.

Think Dorothy longing to explore somewhere over the rainbow.

Or Alice venturing forth — not into Wonderland, but through the looking-glass, where she finds a curiously familiar yet slightly off-kilter world.

That’s precisely what happens to Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning). Not Caroline, as she reminds everyone who keeps mispronouncing her name.

Naturally, Coraline’s parents (voiced by "Desperate Housewives’ " Teri Hatcher and "The Daily Show’s" John Hodgman) don’t do that.

They’re too busy typing away at their computers to do anything else, now that they’ve uprooted the family and moved from snowy Michigan to Ashland, Ore.

Home to one of America’s great Shakespeare festivals, Ashland provides an ideal opportunity for Coraline’s parents to indulge their mutual interest in gardening. Unfortunately, Coraline’s parents don’t seem to have much interest in helping her grow.

But at least their new abode — a pink Victorian mansion that’s been divided into apartments — provides some extremely eccentric neighbors to satisfy Coraline’s appetite for adventure.

There’s impish neighbor Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr.), who likes to eat bugs. Or Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane), a Russian acrobat who insists that the deliveries of noxiously aromatic cheese are for his endlessly-in-rehearsal circus mice. And two other showbiz veterans, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible (played by "Absolutely Fabulous" veterans Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French), still behave as though they’re headlining such risqué entertainments as "King Leer." But these outsize characters lose their allure once Coraline discovers a tiny door at the base of a wall — one that opens to a cavelike passage leading to an alternate reality that looks very like her own.

Except that Coraline’s parents, rather than ignoring her, indulge her every whim. Rather than a drab space, her room resembles a fairy-tale realm. Mr. Bobinsky’s mouse circus is a genuine wow — and the Misses Spink and Forcible return to the stage.

Indeed, Coraline’s alternate world is ever so enticing — except, perhaps, for the black buttons that have replaced everyone’s eyes, an unsettling signal that not all is quite right in this tidy paradise.

Clearly, "Coraline" isn’t geared toward the littlest ones, even though they might delight, along with everyone else, in the movie’s pop-up storybook look. (And yes, by all means, see "Coraline" in 3-D; the effects enhance rather than overwhelm the imaginative imagery.)

Once the movie’s dark psychological dreamscape (or, more accurately, nightmare-scape) takes hold, however, "Coraline" delves into some truly macabre territory, with plenty to ponder in the "be careful what you wish for" category.

Yet "Coraline" also has some piercing insights regarding the importance of being yourself — and how vital it is to approach life with your eyes open. (That’s a lot easier to do if you don’t have shiny black buttons where your eyes ought to be.)

Selick’s screenplay takes its time introducing, and developing, Coraline’s weirdly fascinating world, but there’s so much to enjoy along the way that it matters not a whit.

Visually, "Coraline" emerges as a quiet stunner. It’s got eye-popping sequences, to be sure, but they exist to serve the story, not the other way around. (Which is exactly as it should be.)

The movie’s all-star vocal ensemble adds intriguing quirks to characters who are nothing if not quirky, from Keith David’s inscrutably know-it-all cat to Fanning’s feisty Coraline. And Hatcher has a field day parodying her "Desperate Housewives" day job as Coraline’s frazzled real-life mom — and her too-good-to-be-true reflection, who inhabits the alluring alternate reality.

Yet it’s the stop-motion figures themselves who steal the show. They’re so vivid and expressive, in both body and facial movements, that they cease being mere puppets and take on a life all their own.

Ideally, that’s what movie characters should always do. But sometimes it takes a cartoon to lead the way.

Contact movie critic Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

Take a tour of The Underground at The Mob Museum
Prince death investigation coming to an end
Prosecutors in Minnesota plan an announcement Thursday on the two-year investigation into Prince's death from a drug overdose Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Search warrants unsealed about a year after Prince died showed that authorities searched his home, cellphone records of associates and his email accounts to try to determine how he got the drug. The county attorney has scheduled a morning announcement at which time charges could be filed.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Big Bounce America visits North Las Vegas
Billing itself as "the biggest bounce house in the world," Big Bounce America visits Craig Ranch Regional Park in Las Vegas.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
Disneyland debuts new foods for Pixar Fest on Friday
Pixar Fest takes place ahead of California Adventure’s Pixar Pier expansion. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sneak Peek at New Decorations, Merch and Parade for Disneyland's Pixar Fest
Las Vegas Philharmonic celebrates 20th anniversary season
Orchestra’s 2018-19 season features premiere, more (Carol Cling/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Las Vegas' newest bar is a reggae lounge
Jammyland serves island-inspired cocktails. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
This boozy milkshake is big enough to share with seven of your best friends
Fiddlestix makes an "8 Man Milkshake" that's packed with alcohol. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five Chris Stapleton songs you need to hear
D. Michael Evola opened E-String to make New York style pizza
Shamrock Macarons at Morels at Palazzo
Zuma serves a sushi roll topped with 24-karat gold
La Cirque covers their quail and foie gras in real gold
Jean-Georges Steakhouse seves chocolate gold bars
3 ways you can eat gold in Las Vegas
Artist Kathleen Nathan On The Virtues Of Library Galleries
The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District’s art galleries offers artists a more relaxed vibe for showing their work. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada SPCA Competes In Tournament Of Tails
The NSPCA and its mascot cat, Prince, are competing in an online voting challenge for a $5,000 grand prize.
Red carpet at MGM for Dan Reynolds Believer screening
Kats on the red carpet for the VIP screening of "Believer," the documentary by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds about how the Mormon Church treats its LGBTQ members.
Eureka's cocktail comes with a "buzz button" that will shock your taste buds
‘The Sopranos’ Prequel Film Confirmed
‘The Sopranos’ Prequel Film Confirmed Deadline reports that New Line has purchased Chase and Lawrence Konner’s screenplay for their “Sopranos” prequel film. The working title for the prequel is “The Many Saints of Newark.” Chase created the HBO series, which ran for six seasons, and Konner served as a writer. “The Many Saints of Newark” is set during the 1960s riots in the New Jersey city between the African-American and Italian communities. Multiple characters from the series, albeit younger versions, are expected to star in the film. The Sopranos won 21 Primetime Emmy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards during its run.
The Big Bounce America is coming to the Las Vegas Valley
The Big Bounce America. (Courtesy Big Bounce America)
The 90th Oscars Were the Least Watched in History
The 90th Oscars Were the Least Watched in History According to The Hollywood Reporter, 26.5 million watched the Oscars, a 20 percent drop from last year. The 26.5 million viewers would be an all-time low for the Oscars. Overnight returns had the lengthy ABC telecast averaging a 18.9 rating among households between 8 and 11 p.m. ET. Last year, 32.9 million viewers tuned in to watch the ceremony. The previous low for viewership was 32 million viewers in 2008 when Jon Stewart was host. The Shape of Water picked up an award for Best Picture, while Gary Oldman and Frances McDormand won Best Actor and Actress, respectively.
March First Friday theme is “Think”
First Friday art, culture, music and food event takes place on the first Friday of every month in and around the studios and galleries of the Arts District in downtown Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon)
Cirque’s One Night for One Drop gets ready for the big night
Cirque du Soleil’s “One Night for One Drop” performed a dress rehearsal for the annual benefit show. This year’s show at Mandalay Bay is based on the life of singer-songwriter Jewel. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The Kosher Experience provides kosher foods to Las Vegas families
2018-19 Broadway Las Vegas at The Smith Center
Ten touring productions are on The Smith Center’s 2018-19 Broadway Las Vegas season schedule. (The Smith Center)
Las Vegas bar serves French toast coated in Fruity Pebbles
A Las Vegas bar serves French toast kids (and adults) can only dream of! Born and Raised coats its Hendertucky Toast in Fruity Pebbles. First, the cereal is ground up in a food processor. Then, the batter is created with eggs, heavy cream, cinnamon and powdered sugar. The grill is coated with butter before dunking Texas toast in the batter, coating it in the cereal, and placing it on the grill. Once the toast is cooked on both sides, it's time for toppings. Hendertucky French toast is topped with whipped cream, strawberries and blueberries. It's finished with whiskey maple syrup. Would you try this?
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Companies bet their futures on cryptocurrency
Two Las Vegas entrepreneurs talk about finding their niche in blockchain enabled technologies and digital currency.
Solar panels reduce energy bill for CCSD
Wilbur and Theresa Faiss Middle School is one of 42 CCSD schools with solar panel installations, saving approximately $514,000 per year in energy costs.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like