A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 47 – Coraline

Coraline – April 16th, 2010

So, a word about this weekend and tonight in particular: I will be visiting a friend for the weekend and Andy and I will be watching the movies tonight, Saturday and Sunday apart. In fact, tonight I watched Coraline on my iPod on the bus and I am now typing this on my phone. Ah, technology. Every so often I realize I live in the future.

But onto Coraline. We originally saw this in the theater in 3D, so I find it pretty funny that my second view was on my tiny iPod screen. I figure I saw all the amazing detail already, so no big deal, right? And really, the movie was still visually amazing on an itty bitty screen. The animation is absolutely gorgeous and I adore the little things about it as much as the big dramatics. Case in point: the dogs. My mother has two black Scottish terriers and for anyone who has not had the pleasure of personally meeting one, I can vouch for the dogs in this movie being hilariously spot on. Especially their little overbites, which make me laugh my ass off. But then there are the big things, like all the people and the garden and the big climax. It is a beautifully made movie.

Now, being a children’s librarian, I would be acquainted with the book the movie is based on even if I wasn’t fond of Neil Gaiman’s work already. Unfortunately, it’s been quite some time since I read it, so I’m a little fuzzy on details and differences. I know the character of Wybie was introduced for the movie and I know the climax was made all cinematic and actiony for the screen, but the rest? I honestly can’t say. And I think that’s a good thing! Really, even Wybie and the climax work for the movie. Nothing really feels out of place in the world Gaiman originally created.

And what a creepy world it is. Sure, the eyes = soul thing is a bit of a cliche, but the button twist is nicely eerie for a story largely intended for kids. Same for there being a world connected to our own where we could have everything we could want, if only we give up our selves. It’s a “be careful what you wish for” type of story. A cautionary fairytale with a monster who surely wants to gobble you up. So many fairy tales have had their danger and risk sanded away these days, I like seeing something so genuinely nightmare-foddery and dreamlike at the same time.

Overall, I really do like this movie. I have a couple of complaints, like Coraline’s game with the other mother feeling a tiny bit like the beginning of a Zelda game, but they’re minor, all things considered. The voices are marvelous and as I said, the animation is beautiful. And to be honest, I’d watch it for the Scotties alone.


April 16, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment


April 16, 2010


I really like this movie, but in many ways the technical wizardry of this movie overshadows the film itself. This was the first full length feature film I saw in polarized 3D in the theater. It was an amazing experience and I was truly blown away. In that single viewing I became convinced that 3D would be a major revolution for the cinema – as big as the introduction of color or sound. Beyond that innovation there’s the awe inspiring animation. You may recall in my review for The Fantastic Mr. Fox I mentioned that the animation was gloriously chaotic. The animation in this movie is the opposite of that. It’s some of the most astonishingly polished stop-motion animation I have ever seen. The movie is filled with details that are on the screen for just a few seconds but must have taken herculean effort to achieve. Things like the way Coraline’s hair falls around her face as she tilts her head. Or the mud sloughing off the lid of the well. in combination with the 3D effects it pulled me right into the world of Coraline. Both the worlds.

Because of course Coraline is a movie about world building. It’s all about a sort of dream world that Coraline finds in her new home behind a little locked door that leads nowhere. A dream world that is strangely perfect for Coraline at first, but quickly becomes a nightmare. It’s very much a fairy story. The movie is based on a children’s chapter book by Neil Gaiman, and it cleaves close to many of the tropes of such children’s stories. It follows the rule of threes, for example, with the three wonders in the other world (the garden, the mouse circus and the theater.) And the evil creature at the heart of the other world, the Beldam, is a very dark creature such as you might expect to find in the original Grimm fairy tales.

I should say something about the adaptation from book to screen as well. Much that is in the book is faithfully followed in the movie version, but there is one major change which is a device I haven’t seen in movie adaptations before. Often when a book is adapted to film smaller characters are excised to keep the action going along, but in this adaptation Henry Selick has gone the other direction, creating a major new character who isn’t present in the book at all. Wybie is a neighbor kid who acts a a foil for Coraline, and allows her to speak out her internal monologue. It’s a brave choice. I can see why he felt it necessary, since in the book version Coraline is alone most of the time. It’s a story about being alone in some ways and about the worlds we create for ourselves to feel less alone. It would be very hard to put her internal voice in the film without Wybie to talk to.

I will say that this is a slightly disturbing movie. Coraline gets trapped in a nightmare and her parents get abducted. It’s not your usual children’s movie fare. But that’s part of what I like about it. It doesn’t talk down to kids. It says to them “yes, sometimes nightmares are real, but you can still get through them.” Really 2009 was a fantastic year for adaptations of children’s books. There was Mr. Fox and this, and there was Where the Wild Things Are, which we’ll be talking about later in the project. All stellar works.

The one other thing I’d like to say about this movie is that it has some brilliant moments that stick in my mind and make me grin. In particular there’s the song Coraline’s “other father” sings to her. It’s a quick little ditty by They Might be Giants accompanied by a fantastic bit of animation. Long after I saw the movie that quick little moment remained with me. Also: I absolutely love the casting of Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders as Coraline’s two elderly downstairs neighbours. It’s a brilliant choice that makes for some fun bits.

Oh, and the soundtrack for this movie is astonishing too. Not just the little TMBG bit. The entire movie is filled with this great choir music that perfectly captures Coraline’s isolation and boredom in the real world.

Altogether it’s a great movie, filled with a lot of great movie magic. I kind of wish that I were watching it in 3D though. I’ll probably end up buying it again on 3D Blu-Ray later this year so I can watch it the way it was in the theater way back last year when it changed my perception of what movies could be.

April 16, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment