Sunday, November 18, 2012

Family Movie Night: Coraline

Title: Coraline
Director: Henry Selick
Original Release: 2009
Choice: My Wife's
My Overall Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Image via Wikipedia

This week presented a rare instance in which Our Girl had the advantage: she had read the book Caroline whereas neither of her parents had.  We had to remind her not to give away too much of the story as we were watching.  She waited until afterward to tell us about the differences between book and movie.

I have mixed feelings about Neil Gaiman, the book's author.  On the one hand, he is the screenwriter for one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes: "The Doctor's Wife," a deserving Hugo winner.  On the other hand, he first made his name in the comic book world, especially The Sandman series.  I tried the first collected volume of Sandman, entitled Preludes & Nocturnes.  While I certainly appreciated the novelty and invention, the story is, frankly, a bit gross at times.  I'm alright with creepy or even scary.  I really don't go in for gross.

Coraline is far from gross.  Instead, it is a dark but ultimately sweet and redeeming tale with a very believable title character.  Coraline, a young, I'd say pre-teen, girl moves to a new house with her parents.  She's bored.  She feels unappreciated.  She finds a portal to an alternate world with a seemingly better family.  Choices must be made but not all is as it seems.

The stop-action animation is lovely, my favorite a Van Gogh Starry Night-inspired sequence towards the end.  The pacing is interesting with a relatively slow initial development for a children's movie - not necessarily a bad thing but unusual.  I am genuinely curious about the book now.  Our Girl enjoyed both.

Multi-generational considerations:
  • A strong female-lead - a definite plus at our house.
  • A relatively sophisticated story for a children's film but still more formulaic than the average Miyazaki offering.

My Rating System:

5 = The best of the best.  These are the films by which I judge other films.
4 = High quality films which I feel could hold up well in repeated viewings.
3 = The vast majority of films.  They're fine.  Once was enough.
2 = I wasn't even sure I wanted to finish it.  It's not a 1 because I'm not prepared to say it's a terrible film - just not my cup of tea.
1 = A terrible film.  An insult to the art form.


  1. Haven't seen this one yet. I did like the Sandman series (gross doesn't bother me) but never got hooked.

    1. I should have added that I have enjoyed other Gaiman comics work. "Marvel 1602" was pretty good.

  2. I usually enjoy Gaiman but I seem to recall that the book Coraline left me cold...It has helped me avoid the movie thus far...

    1. The biggest sell for me is the believability of the title character. She's a real kid. Not having read the book myself, I don't know how much of that is in the original text.

  3. 'A relatively sophisticated story for a children's film but still more formulaic than the average Miyazaki offering.'

    Precious little that is not. The first Miyazaki film I viewed was 'Spirited Away,' at the cinema. My mind kept wanting to force the narrative toward the Western template from which the formulas with which we are familiar arise. Not to be.

    1. Miyazaki has become the standard for me. I'd never seen any of his films before becoming a parent, either. "Spirited Away" is definitely one of his stranger works. We love it. Our Girl once had an idea to write new songs for the story - nothing came of that but it definitely captured her imagination.

    2. We actually watched 'Spirited Away' just before our daughter was born. 'Castle in the Sky' was next for us -- after she was old enough to appreciate it -- and after that our collection just grew. I have an original film poster from 1984 in Japanese for CitS. Had it professionally framed. It's really beautiful.

      That's really nice that your girl was inspired to write songs for SA. I forget, is she taking music lessons?

    3. Yes, piano. She just started in May.