ParaNorman

Here is a nice summer kids movie that swings right up my street, knocks on the door and says “Hey can I come in?” My answer will be of course “yes”. This little guy features stop motion animation, a kid obsessed with horror films, and an off center point of view. Oh, add on top of that it uses the great Donovan hit from the 1960s, “Season of the Witch”. I’m in with my heart if not always my head. The wordplay in the title is just the kind of joke I need to put me in one more spot up on the must see list. Unfortunately, I’ve been so busy the last couple of weeks, I’m only just now getting around to it and some of you may already be on to something else. That’s OK, I’m going to give you my fix still.

To begin with, this is not really a film for little kids. There is some pretty gruesome stuff going on here. I heard a lot of comments around me today from 5, 6, and 7 year olds, that seemed strange. One little guy said, “Zombies don’t really kill you, they just eat your brains.” Another tyke was asking her mother if you were a ghost, could you hurt someone or did you have to be a zombie. I know kids grow up faster these days but this is not really a film for anyone under eight or nine. I have not checked but it should at least be rated PG. There is a plot point that involves a group adults actually killing a little girl, we don’t see it on screen but it is a key element of the plot. How are you going to explain that kind of stuff to the little guys? Give em a couple of years and it will be fine.

The look of the stop motion figures is classically odd. Let’s face it, stop motion looks different from traditional animation for a clear reason. There is a look and feel to these characters that is very different from a classically drawn image. I liked the way that the adults were shown, warts and all and the kids have there negative aspects as well. Giving Mom a little pot belly is not the usual way these things go in animation. The colors of the film are dark and luminous at the same time. There is a sense that the images are glowing green, even in those spots where they are not. The plotline features ghouls and ghosts, many of which do not look like they are Scooby Doo friendly, they look more “Night of the Living Dead” gross. I found that the story spun out of control a couple of times. Just as it is established that our hero can see the dead, that plot thread disappears except for motivation of the story. We don’t really encounter any dead people after the goal of the hero has been set up. Once the curse that Norman is supposed to be fighting against begins, everyone can see all of the zombies and ghosts. There was clearly a family connection to this gift but it was barely developed. Norman is charged with his quest by a crazy Uncle, but that element of the story goes away and we don’t get much of a fix on how the Uncle fit into the earlier generations family dynamic. If it is going to be mentioned, it should be part of the story, but it just is, without reason for being there. We meet the dead grandma and the live father, and neither of them talks about the Uncle much, especially after he expires. I did like some other characters that get brought into the story. Norman’s unwanted friend Neil and his brother, tag along with Norman and his sister on a journey to discover the burial spot of the “Witch”. The hysteria with all the towns people gets a little overwrought as does the parallel to earlier times.

The plot pulls it all together eventually, but it felt a little ragged to me. There are a couple of weird sex related references, and that’s another issue for the little kids. None of it was explicit, but it was a little out of place. The resolution of the story was fine and there is a nice moral to the story. We did not see it in 3D but it looked as if there were some good visual gags that would make it 3D friendly. It was much like “Coraline” from a couple of years ago, well planned visuals, a good idea for a story but a little weak on putting the narrative together. A solid film, but not quite the complete treasure that many parts of it are.

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2 thoughts on “ParaNorman

  1. I really liked this movie but agree, it's most certainly not for kids. There were some pacing problems and the story did jump around, but visually it's a masterpiece and saves the movie from being awful. The adult themes slap you in the face and the reveal of the witch is even more disturbing. Good review.

    Also, I'm doing some leg work for the LAMB, and need your email address. If you can toss it my way, email it to npowe131@gmail.com.

    Thanks Richard!

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