FILM: 'Coraline' animates challenging moral dilemmas[Episcopal News Service] Some Christian audiences seem to gravitate toward family films not only for their kid-friendly storylines but because they offer escapism in a broad but not always positive sense of the word. While many of these movies offer entertaining and fanciful settings and characters, they provide a disservice to their audience when they gloss over the truth of how the world operates or suggest overly tidy solutions to complex problems.
But a few exceptional family movies – such as the recent Focus Features release Coraline – offer the first type of escape without falling into the trap of the second. Coraline is as creative as movies come, thanks in great part to its dazzling stop-action animation. At the same time, the story compels its title character (and the audience) to grapple with some challenging moral dilemmas, providing Coraline the opportunity to become a truly authentic and admirable heroine.
The dilemma at the core of Coraline's story is framed by the question "How should we live?" Coraline lives in a creaky old house with workaholic parents who resent their lonely, imaginative daughter for her constant demands and distractions. (There's a wonderful irony here in that the parents are experts at gardening yet seem indifferent to aiding the growth of their child).
Coraline is thus thrilled to discover an alternate world inside the house where "other parents" seem truly loving and cater to her every need, and the "other house" and its surroundings are endlessly entertaining. In order to stay there, however, Coraline faces a decision that involves nothing less than the loss of her soul – one that forces her to confront the limitations that come with embracing her flawed, even painful life. Coraline may stand out for its fantastic animated world, but through screenwriter/director Henry Selick's refusal to subscribe to the easy escapist choices found in so many family movies, this film is firmly grounded in the real world its younger viewers are just learning to understand.
Coraline's escape from the increasingly monstrous "other mother" is short-circuited when Coraline faces another moral choice: whether to rescue not only the spirits of three children who earlier ran afoul of the demonic "mother" but her own parents. Coraline's decision to return to the alternate world for the rescue comes across as a truly selfless one – there are few rewards awaiting her if she succeeds (her parents will not be magically transformed into saints as in other films), only the intrinsic ones that come with saving others.
Coraline has been criticized as too dark and scary for some children. But one hopes that a broad range of families – especially those with daughters – will overcome these objections to give the film a chance, not only to enjoy its exciting story but to learn from a heroine who rejects escape in order to fully appreciate life.» Respond to this article