I read the book to them a couple of years ago, and it's really special to all of us. (Sibling bonding experiences make you overinvested to a truly ridiculous degree.) We were all set for the movie to be disappointing, because we are born pessimists.
We were not wrong.
Visually it was pretty amazing- the 3D thing could have been a gimmick, but it worked really well with the art and overall feel of the film. It's creepy and crawly and made me jump in my seat a couple of times. They kept the storyline mostly intact, except for the last fifteen minutes or so, and those last fifteen minutes ruined it for us.
In the book Coraline is a smart, brave kid whose biggest problem is being bored out of her skull. She discovers a wall in her living room that leads to another world where she meets her "other mother," who has kidnapped her real parents and plans to eat her. She figures things out on her own, makes a plan to trick the other mother and escapes, and then figures out how to make sure she can never hurt another kid again by dropping her disembodied hand and the key down a well.
In the movie Coraline is kind of whiny and bratty. She doesn't travel from one world to the next of her own volition, but gets transported there in a dream. That bothered me a little because it kind of took away her agency, but it was nothing compared to the ending.
See, the movie introduces us to a character named Wybie, a boy around Coraline's age who follows her around. (She refers to him as a stalker a couple of times.) He's kind of a pointless character and spends most of the movie being annoying and providing exposition that could easily have been supplied by someone else. But whatever. I figured they didn't want to make a movie where the main character spends most of her time talking to herself (although hello girlfriend had a talking motherfucking cat to play with), so I went with it.
Towards the end Coraline is trying to figure out how to get rid of the key to the other mother's apartment before the other mother's hand can steal it. In the book she tricks it by putting a tablecloth over the open well and staging a tea party, then placing the key in the center; the hand races over to grab for the key and ends up falling down the well instead. In the movie Coraline leaves the house and walks toward the well, but it's clear she has no idea what to do. The hand attacks her, trying to grab the key and drag her back to the house.
Guess who saves her? Wybie.
Guess who decides to throw the key down the well? Wybie.
Guess who says "I'm glad you were my stalker"? Coraline.
What the actual fuck.
Part of the reason why I loved the book so much was because Coraline was such a cool little kid. She thought for herself and acted for herself and ultimately saved herself, because nobody believed that the other mother even existed. The movie robs her of that. She ends up being just another fucking damsel in distress, another girl who isn't smart enough to figure shit out and needs to be saved by some dude. Which is an awesome message to send to little girls, right?
Those last fifteen minutes left me with a bad taste in my mouth. It was totally unnecessary to have Wybie there in the first place, but to make him the fucking hero? FUCK. THAT. Take your zany claymation wonderland and shove it, assholes, because it was a waste of fucking popcorn.
(x-posted from feminist_rage and my personal journal)