A lonely, blue-haired little girl in search of adventure

REVIEW Coraline is a great film to take your kids to, provided you're willing to let them sleep in your bed for a night. Like the Neil Gaiman novel it's based on, this is a fairy tale with a dark side, an Alice in Wonderland–style fable that doesn't dumb things down for its target audience. But then, neither did Alice. Dakota Fanning voices Coraline, a lonely, blue-haired little girl in search of adventure. She finds it, and them some, when she travels into bizarro world by way of a tiny door in her house. There she finds her Other Mother (Teri Hatcher), who seems nice enough — except that she wants to sew buttons into Coraline's eyes. Soon the precocious girl has embarked on a mission to save her kidnapped parents, some old school ghosts, and, of course, herself. The animation style is an updated version of that found in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), also from director Henry Selick. There's a richness and depth to Coraline's world, which is only emphasized by the nifty 3-D effects. Inevitably, this Coraline is softer than Gaiman's source material, but it's spooky enough to please both fans and newcomers. Despite the lack of big scares, it leaves you with a lingering unease. And possibly a fear of buttons.

CORALINE opens Fri/6 in Bay Area theaters.

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