Director: Henry Selick
Stars: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman, Jennifer Saunders, Ian McShane, Keith David, Caroline Crawford, Robert Bailey, Jr.
Since elementary school students aren't quite ready to read Stephen King's horror novels, Neil Gaiman is a brilliant substitute. A prolific author of grown-up fare in his own right, Gaiman is particularly deft when it comes to balancing youthful accessibility with elegant, mature macabre, and his 2002 book Coraline is a prime example. And thankfully, the assignment of adapting Coraline's text for the big screen went to the best man for the job: stop-motion champ Henry Selick, who'd previously directed The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and James and the Giant Peach (1996).
Utilizing 52 stages for the movie's hand-crafted sets, Selick took painstaking measures to ensure that Gaiman's story was handled respectfully, and the result is an exceptional animated film that's still yet to receive the attention it deserves. Coraline centers on the titular young girl (voiced by Dakota Fanning) whose frustrations over neglectful parents and a lack of human friends draws her into the Other World, where people's eyes are replaced by buttons and there's a spider-like witch woman with sewing needles for hands. And, yes, it's as unsettling as it sounds.
Fortunately, though, Selick, who also wrote the script, knows how to sanitize horrifying material without neutering it, making Coraline a dark kids' flick for all ages.