Dakota Fanning, Coraline

Focus Features

Review in a Hurry: The list of recent, great animated films that don't have the Pixar logo attached is short—but now it can include Coraline. In charming stop-motion and 3-D, it tells of a spunky tween (Dakota Fanning) who discovers a doorway to a world where everything is just slightly off. And where parents are way cooler.

The Bigger Picture: Coraline (Fanning) has just moved into her new home with her always-preoccupied mom and dad when boredom sets in. She sets about to explore the new digs and finds a way into a parallel world much like her own—only much better.

In this new world, her Other Mother (Teri Hatcher) cooks her tasty meals and her Other Dad (John Hodgman) makes wondrous gardens that look like Coraline. (How wonderful, a world that revolves around me!)

There are a few oddities though. For one thing, everyone in this realm has buttons for eyes and that's just not right.

Like Spirited Away and other Alice-esque tales, Coraline is superb at seeing the world through the eyes of a child but never feeling childlike.

And the weirdly fascinating imagery on display never fails to impress. Just wait until you see the trapeze act by the two biddies who live next door. And feast on the very not-normal Russian wunderkind Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane).

Based on a novel by fantasy guru Neil Gaiman and directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), this is sure to be on permanent loop in homes everywhere, and deservedly so.

The 180—a Second Opinion: The 3-D technology in movies has outgrown the old red and blue glasses, but it's still distracting. And can someone please make comfortable dimensional specks? Maybe Coraline can find a pair in that alternate universe of hers.

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