Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Henry Selick
2nd rewrite: May 8, 2002
Something that’s proven to be exceedingly difficult for screenwriters over the years is to take elements from a book that is really well-loved by it’s fans and be able to translate them into a script in a way that makes sense. So many authors delve into deep description when they play out a scene in a novel, and to make that come alive in screen can be a pain.
This is why most King novels suck ass when they hit movie theaters.
Coraline, however, was at an advantage already, because Neil Gaiman, author of the book on which the script is based, had already produced a book that was just over 100 pages already, about the size of your typical screenplay. The disadvantage, and something that would really tip the scales into suckville for the movie adaptation if not done well, were the visuals, which Gaiman pulled off wonderfully thanks to the help of illustrator Dave McKean but could very easily be done badly in a movie version. Thankfully they’ve attached a director that has shown before he can wow us with visuals we never thought possible.
Henry Selick, for those not in the know, was the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, two of the first films to use the newest level of stop-motion animation and do it beautifully. So when I heard he was the man they had hired to write and direct the movie adaptation of Coraline, all of my fears were laid to rest. Now that I’ve read the script I know there’s even less to worry about.
If you haven’t read the book, here’s a quick breakdown for you: Coraline concerns the life of one Coraline Jones, a very intelligent little girl whose parents just moved into a new house and suddenly finds herself very bored. Upon some exploration of said homestead, she happens upon a door that, at first, seems to lead to nowhere. When she decides to open it again, she finds that instead it leads her to her other home, into a world where everything is just like it is in her life, but better.
Her other mother, while at first seeming like everything her real mother is not, turns out to be more than a bit evil, and wants Coraline to stay in this new world that’s been created just for her, so her other mother can love her forever and ever. The book is bound to be a new classic of children’s literature, one of those rare novels that crosses the line and allows adults to enjoy it, as well, and if you haven’t read it…well, damnit, you should. You can see my full review of it here.
The screenplay manages to stay very faithful to the book on pretty much every single account. The only new plot device thrown in is an annoying neighbor boy that Coraline has to deal with by the name of Wybie. Usually when new characters are thrown into a script that weren’t in it’s source material they stick out like a sore thumb but here, however, Selick slides Wybie into the action and gives him the kind of bizarre and interesting behavior that allows him to fit into this strange world perfectly, and if nothing else just adds to the overall story. So there’s nothing to worry about there.
Coraline, as I’ve hinted at before, is filled with some very strange imagery throughout, and thankfully every single odd and out of place thing from the book (save for her discovery of what here other father really looks like) remains intact. From the bizarre Scottie dog/bats that attack her while on the search for the childrens’ souls to the very helpful and cool talking cat, it’s all here and I’m sure it’s all going to be done beautifully, because Selick knows what he’s doing in these situations.
Casting for Coraline is going to be a long process, I feel, because the titular character is a very smart and resourceful 12 year old girl, and finding someone in real life to pull off her small twists and turns within the context of the story will be very important. You can’t have a good movie full of amazing visuals if your main character can’t act her way out of a wet paper bag. I wish I were more familiar with child actresses nowadays so I could offer up some examples of whom I think would be good, but sadly I’m not. I just hope that Selick and company use their time auditioning wisely and get the perfect girl.
Overall, this script is just fantastic. It gave me the same thrill I got from my first reading of Coraline the book, and that’s something you don’t see in scripts everyday. All additions large and small are welcome and serve to add to the superior quality of this script, and the minor subtractions are easily overlooked. I’m not sure what the status on the production of the Coraline movie is as of right now, but I sure hope they don’t change the script much from this version. Stay tuned for the latest on the movie.
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