In the town of Blithe Hollow, Norman Babcock is a boy who can speak to the dead, but no one besides his eccentric new friend, Neil, believes his ability is real. One day, Norman's estranged eccentric uncle tells him of an important annual ritual he must take up to protect the town from a curse cast by a witch it condemned centuries ago. Eventually, Norman decides to cooperate, but things don't go according to plan. Now, a magic storm of the witch threatens Blithe Hollow as the accursed dead rise. Together with unexpected new companions, Norman struggles to save his town, only to discover the horrific truth of the curse. With that insight, Norman must resolve the crisis for good as only he can. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
The story is set in the town of Blithe Hollow, whose name is a mash-up of two other ghost stories: Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit and Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. See more »
When Neil is watching his mother's aerobics DVD, it has white lines going across the screen as it is paused. VHS tapes did that but DVDs don't. See more »
What's happening now?
Well, the zombie is eating her head, Grandma.
That's not very nice. What's he doing that for?
Because he's a zombie. That's what they do.
He's gonna ruin his dinner. I'm sure if they just bothered to sit down and talk it through, it would be a different story.
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After the credits, a short featurette shows a time-lapse video of the creation and modeling of the Norman figure used for filming. See more »
The thing of it is, ParaNorman is pretty scary stuff for a PG movie, so you've been properly warned. This isn't some over-sanitized Disney movie. Everything from the lighting to the characters to the tense plot adds up to something you wouldn't want your six-year-old to drag you to, unless you don't mind paying for some therapy. But it's a terrific movie, with a style all its own and a madcap sense of ghoulish delight.
Norman (voice of Kodi Smith-McPhee) is an outcast. Know why? He talks to dead people. And indeed, we see them as well, chatting with our hero along his walk to school. Oh, and his grandmother (voice of Elaine Stritch) talks to him all the time while sitting on the couch in the living room. No one understands poor Norman, who's as resignedly freaked out as Haley Joel Osment in the Sixth Sense, so he has no one to talk to, not his parents (Jeff Garlin and Leslie Mann), not his sister (Anna Kendrick), and not the school bully (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) for sure.
It's only when Norman has an episode during the production of a school play (not coincidentally, about an old legend surrounding the town's dark past) that he gains a friend - another outcast, the portly Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), who teaches Norman that it's best not to let people bother you, to not let them get under your skin. Had the story ended there, we may have had a nice, tidy after-school special. Oh, but it does not! From out of almost nowhere, Norman's black-sheep uncle, Mr. Prenderghast (John Goodman), a heavily bearded, slightly loony chap, informs Norman that he - Norman! - must take the mantle of He Who Holds Off the Witch's Curse. Mr. P. has been doing it for all these years, but he thinks he's about to go. He warns Norman that it's all up to him and he must read from the book and then he dies. That was an intentional run-on sentence, for your pleasure.
Thereby our plot is set in motion! Norman must extricate said book from the dead uncle and then read it by the witch's grave in order to break the curse that no one really believes is real. They don't believe it on account of Mr. Dead Uncle has been reading from the book for his entire life, and someone before him, and so on. But now Dead Uncle is, you know, demised, and just before the witch is to rise from the ashes and wreak havoc! Oh, I should note that the curse goes like this - a little girl was suspected of witchcraft by the town elders and sentenced to death. So you can see why she might want to haunt those elders and the town itself for all eternity.
There are people raised from the dead, and the imagery is quite striking; bones, stringy hair, rent clothing, and the ability to remove an appendage and reattach it. Are these - uh - zombies - out to lay waste to the town? Or are they victims of their own device? It's up to Norman, his brain, and his innate ability to talk to dead people to somehow save the day. Despite being grounded, of course.
ParaNorman works on many levels. Adults will love the stylish, almost Gothic atmosphere; older teens will love the menace of both the zombies and the townspeople, not to mention the witch herself. There are, for an animated film, plenty of scares and dark themes - slightly offset by the themes of loneliness, friendship, heroism, and getting adults to just listen to you. For once! Ahem. Anyway, there's a sort of beauty in ParaNorman, as horror and light comedy are somehow blended to form a rich animated film.
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