SymbolismFrom a religious perspective, the movie was interesting. The easy comparison is, of course, between the Other Mother and Satan. He wriggles into your life with temptation (the doll and mice) in the places you're unhappy, exploits your desire for flattery and attention and fun, and convinces you that it's all worth poking your own eyes out for. Of course, if you poke your eyes out, you die. Coraline is the Christ figure, who faces temptation and death, refuses them, and saves the souls of the sinners, or those who did poke their eyes out. They cat? The Holy Ghost. Coraline hears him when she's ready to listen. Her parents are God, from whom she is cut off when she flirts too closely with sin and becomes trapped by the devil. Watch the movie. You'll see the same techniques Satan uses as recorded in scripture and in Lewis's enlightening Screwtape Letters performed beautifully by the Other Mother. Of course, Coraline's parents are never trapped by the Other Mother, but she must find them (God) again to escape Satan. Big fat symbolic duh, right?
ArtWell, it's the beauty and simplicity of the film that really get you. Since 3D video technology came out, it has never been so well used. Every other 3D film has been gimmicky, blurry, or just "slightly un-3D." Coraline, however, was a masterpiece. The visual effects were used to draw you in, but weren't distracting. Don't let my nausea dissuade you—exciting video games make me sick too.
Stop-motion film has been largely brushed aside in favor of computer-generated everything, but the choice to go with stop-motion instead was perfect. It gives the film a slightly creepy and handmade feel. If you can't equate creepy and handmade, then two scary old ladies didn't make you a crocheted Christmas ornament in the shape of a little lamb that hung by a string from its neck. Nothing like a lynched lamb on your tree to bring the Christmas spirit. Bleeeegh.
RelevanceFor the secular crowd, if you're totally ignorant of the religious aspect of things, you're missing a lot. But there's still a lot there. Coraline is a cautionary tale about a girl who is unhappy with her family. What kid doesn't feel that way? But her escapism earns her a nasty surprise—the parents she wishes she had are a psychotic witch and a tool. It's the tendency of kids with caring parents to wish they had the kind that would let them stay out all night, spend every moment paying them attention, and overwhelm them with gifts. Turns out, those kinds of parents are freaks who want to eat your eyeballs. And in the real world, the same kinds of tradeoffs apply. Parents who don't care when their kids come home tend to be neglectful all around. Parents who spoil their children get irresponsible, self-indulgent kids. Parents who make their children the only thing in their lives tend to smother their kids into adulthood and beyond. When Coraline figures it all out, it's normal parents for her!
One might also see Coraline as the adopted child, for whom there literally are two sets of parents. The false hopes she has about her "other" parents are destroyed, and she grows up just a little bit more. I include this interpretation simply because of the interplay between Coraline and her "real" mom. She tries to manipulate her mother into giving her what she wants with the threat of an "other mother." Real mom, feeling the threat of the wonderful Other Mother, reacts by trying to lock the door between Coraline and her fantasy parents (as some adoptive parents choose to do).
Anyway, I'd recommend it. Not only is it an extremely strong parable, but it's an excellent watch. It's beautiful, engrossing, frightening, and very, very interesting.