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This was a rather surprising movie. It's unlike any other modern
animated movie and picks a new sort of approach, that should work
entertaining for both adults and kids.
There is plenty of 'simple' stuff to enjoy for young kids in this movie but also the adults shall have no complaints about it. Throughout the years animated movies often had both stuff for both kids and adults to enjoy in this movie but I feel that the line dividing the two different forms of entertainment is getting more and more blurry. Instead the two things more often get effectively combined, with as a result more and more movies get released that aren't being too childish for adults or too mature for little kids. It's being perfect entertainment for just about everybody!
I do admit though that I was a bit surprised to see how horror orientated this movie was. Make no mistake about it, this is a horror movie. It might be a bit frightening for some children but obviously most shall be perfectly capable of handling it. Fantasy and movies can be a great outlet and also stimulant for children's imagination, this also includes horror orientated stuff. After all, most kids are of course perfectly capable of making a distinction between real stuff and fantasy.
And I do applaud this movie for not being overly fluffy or careful and protective toward children. Not that that this is being a completely dark, or scary, depressing movie to watch but overall it's being a tad bit more dark and daring than just an average animated movie.
It's really having a style and approach of its own, which just doesn't goes for its story or the fact that this is being a more genuine horror flick but also really for its comedy and characters. The characters all feel rich and very much alive (yes, even the dead characters!) and the humor is more clever and often dialog orientated, as opposed to having characters jumping around and falling and bumping into stuff. In that regard this movie also feels far more mature than just the average genre attempt.
And another important aspect about an animated movie; it's a really good looking one! It's using stop-motion techniques and it shows that this genre is far from outdated or dead. It's really something that gives the movie an unique look and feel. I don't know, it's perhaps pleasant that it's being something that allows the movie to feel 'fake' and true exaggerated fantasy-like, as opposed to CG animated movies, that are getting more and more smooth and realistic to watch.
It's also a movie with a great underlying message in it, that tells you it's OK to be different and there is nothing weird or wrong about it and you shouldn't just judge a book on its cover. It's still too bad this message was lost on some people and I'm talking about those who had a problem with its ending. It was perfectly suitable and fitted perfectly into what this entire movie was trying to tell you for the first hour and a half.
A surprisingly good movie in about every regard, that above all things is being perfectly fun and entertaining to watch!
I came into ParaNorman with a sense of cautious optimism. I absolutely
adore stop motion animation, and I genuinely fell in love with
Coraline, LAIKA's previous effort, but the trailers for the film didn't
capture my interest in the story in the way I hoped they would and this
film also didn't have the benefit of being helmed by the brilliant
Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach,
Coraline). That being said, I am extremely happy to report that
ParaNorman absolutely delivers on every level you could hope for.
ParaNorman tells a story about a young boy named Norman who has the unusual ability to see and talk to the dead, an ability which has led him to be ostracized by the other members of his community, including his own family. The New England town in which he lives is famous for a historic witch execution, along with the legend of a curse that the witch put upon those who sentenced her to death. It turns out that the legend of the curse is true, and that Norman, with his ability to talk to the dead, is the only one who can prevent the curse from raising the dead. Unfortunately, Norman is unable to act fast enough and the Witch's curse begins to wreak havoc on the town.
ParaNorman is a film with many strengths. Stop motion animation is always a beautiful and fascinating process, and with new technological advances the filmmakers have been able to bring it to a level of detail and expression that are simply astounding. While the scope of the story may be smaller than something like Coraline or Nightmare Before Christmas, the scale of the stop motion sets for this town are truly incredible. The film absolutely immerses you in this world that feels like a living, breathing, place. As beautiful as the animation in Brave was, ParaNorman is easily the most visually impressive film I have seen this year.
As beautiful as the film is, it never falls into the trap of so many other animated films by simply being visual spectacle with no narrative soul. The story of the film is fun, intelligent, and heartfelt, and is supported by a great cast of characters. The odd kid who is misunderstood is a common trope in kids' movies, but what makes Norman stand out is that he's never mopey about it. He is ostracized, bullied, and rejected, but he's come to a kind of acceptance about the whole thing. He's certainly not happy about it, but at this point he's not trying to fit in, he's really just trying to keep his head down and get through the daily grind. This is part of what makes his relationship with the other characters in the film work so well. For instance Neil genuinely accepts Norman for who he is and it's obvious that this throws Norman for a loop and he doesn't really know how to interact with someone who "gets him." This is never spoken, but it plays out naturally through the performances of the characters.
As the narrative progresses it takes some really interesting turns, and at times is genuinely surprising and emotional. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that a large part of the narrative revolves around assumptions and misunderstanding, and it brilliantly uses the audience's assumptions and expectations about the genre and its conventions against them.
It's also worth mentioning that this is one of the rare films which decidedly benefits from the addition of 3D. There's some fun play with perspective, and being able to see the dimension that exists in these sets adds a lot to the experience.
I genuinely loved ParaNorman and it's easily one of my favorite films this year. It's not a movie for everyone, but if any of the trailers gave you even a glimmer of interest I would definitely recommend checking this one out. LAIKA is certainly beginning to make a name for themselves in the animation scene and I'm really looking forward to whatever their next project will be. I think I still prefer Coraline which definitely benefited from the combination of Neil Gaiman's fantastic story and Henry Selick's experienced hand, but ParaNorman is a truly fantastic film and it's definitely worth a look.
ParaNorman looks like a throwback to the good old campy stop-motion
animated films. The concept may not sound so original, but the designs
and the themes of the story are the main appeal here. The movie is fun
and wonderful to look at. While it goes through a crazy adventure
comedy, there is a surprising twist that made this so endearing. It is
something that we don't usually see in an animated film, but because of
that we intend to love it. ParaNorman is funny, creepy, smart, and
ParaNorman is oddly different as an animated family film. Unlike the others, this one has a dark and mature context, but by sentimental means. Although the story is about spirits and zombies, the true core of this film is the emotion and the message that it is trying to show us. There's a couple of moments that are quite affecting. Usually is when Norman is being alone in his gloomy life. In other parts, the film is ought to be funny. The comedy sometimes feel way apart from the drama, but they still work anyway.
The stop-motion animation indeed looks marvelous. These little figures really brought themselves to life as their voice actors provide their personalities. The campiest part, the zombies, are quite impressive to look at. It's undeniably solid. The music score sure knows which part is suppose to be gloomy, campy, or just ordinary. It's a great effect to the scenes and you'll love it. The rest of the movie is all ridiculous and fun little set pieces that are entertaining enough to enjoy.
ParaNorman is surprisingly strong. The depth of the story made this movie so special. It's still filled with comedy and lightheartedness. In the end, it turns out to be endearing. It's a rare kind of family film that is brave to show what it wanted to show. It might be hard for some to understand its sentiment, but if there's anything else why anyone would like this film then it's because of its majestic animation. ParaNorman is simply great and it's easy enough to recommend.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Focus Features has only had two animated films up to this point; the
beautifully crafted, but story-lacking 9, and of course the gorgeous
and creepy Coraline. Now, this studio's third animated film gives us
both a funny and creepy story about a town under siege by zombies and
an ancient witch's curse. It's one of the best movies of the late
summer, and should easily compete for at the Academy Awards for Best
The film in itself is split into two sections. The first shows Norman, an out-of-place kid in a small New England town who has the ability to talk to ghosts. Since he has no real friends, he doesn't mind the undead. He's picked on at school for being different, and we see that whenever another person, like the geek Neil, wants to be friends with him, he tries to push them away. Norman's older sister, and Neil's older brother are the stereotypical cheerleader and football jock, and they torment Norman as well. And then we have the school bully; every film seems to have them these days.
The second part of the film sees Norman become an unlikely hero after a witch's curse raises the dead back to life and all chaos breaks loose. There are some creepy moments, but the characters are always cracking off one-liners according to the situation, so it kept the film funny as well as adrenaline pumping. The only thing I didn't like about the story was the climax. It's not that I didn't like it, it's just that it felt sort of phoned in. Overall, the voice acting is great, the animation is superb as always, and the 3D remarkably works well. I was expecting a great movie, and I got it with this film. It may be a little too scary for kids under the age of 10, but everyone else should have a blast. I hope this film does well, and I can't wait to see what Focus Feature's next big animated project will be.
Final Verdict: 9/10
A word of caution for parents with younger tots 'Paranorman' might
not go down too well for the faint of heart. But its deliberately
mature- skewing approach is also the reason why this is one of the most
unique animated movies we've seen this year, the latest feat of
stop-motion animation from the same Laika studio artists who had
conjured up the similarly bewitching 'Coraline'.
Both have at their heart titular characters who are outcasts in their social circle. For Norman, his ability to see ghosts have made him a pariah among his schoolmates and the worst of the lot is a pea-brained nose-picking bully named Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Home is not much better. His dad (Jeff Garlin) is none too pleased he claims to be speaking to his dead grandmother, his mother (Leslie Mann) dismisses it as a phase, and his bimbotic teenage sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick) just can't be bothered.
The film's writer is Chris Butler - a storyboard artist who honed his skills on Tim Burton's 'Corpse Bride' and Henry Selick's 'Coraline' - and his experience with the contemporaries in quirky animation has served him well in creating a lovable adolescent misfit in Norman. Before Norman is even confronted with the challenge you know will turn him into the unlikely hero, you've already fallen in love with this sweet unassuming kid with the rectangular quizzical eyebrows and a head of vertical brown hair.
Instead of sugar-coating the reality of Norman's social life, Butler states the truth as it is 'You can't stop bullying it's part of human nature," says Norman's chubby buddy Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), similarly ostracised in school on account of his size. The honesty is refreshing, and so is the plot that follows, involving a 300-year old witch's curse that invokes half-dozen zombies to rise from their graves and terrorise the local townsfolk of Blithe's Hollow.
A twist late into the tale on the witch's identity makes this an unexpectedly moving and thoughtful parable on acceptance and empathy, two morals which tie in beautifully with Norman's own story of rejection. Along the way to the surprisingly intense finale, Butler and his co-director Sam Fell inject a veritable sense of fun into the proceedings which unfold like a roller-coaster ride into a haunted house of terrors, made all the more enjoyable by Norman's motley crew comprising of Alvin, Courtney, Neil and Neil's jockish older brother Mitch (Casey Affleck).
While distracting the younger ones with a cornucopia of visual gags, Butler packs bits of surprises for the adults in the audience. You'll chuckle along with the bits of deadpan humour "Do you think they'll eat our brains?" Alvin screams in fear. "Yeah, you'll be safe," Norman replies as well as the 'blink and you'll miss' tributes to horror classics from 'Halloween' to 'Friday the 13th'. These will be lost on the kids, but what parents should really take time to explain is Butler's message of embracing those who are different from us, a lesson all too precious in today's increasingly xenophobic world.
The same attention to story and character has also gone into the lovingly-detailed animation while at first sight cruder looking than today's more commonly seen computer-generated visuals, the distinctive stop-motion rendering is nothing short of gorgeous, and one truly marvels at the amount of effort that has gone into the individual action-oriented sequences that have so much going on at the same time. The technique has also allowed the animators to sculpt finer detail into each of the characters, which come to life in a certain pop-up fashion that fits perfectly in 3D.
Using the traditional narrative of a misfit turned unlikely hero, 'Paranorman' weaves a fantastically dazzling, consistently engaging and surprisingly touching story that qualifies it as one of the most original and certainly one of the best animated movies of the year. Yes, it isn't as family-friendly as something you might expect from the usual Disney or Dreamworks fare, but you'll appreciate the level of maturity and wit that has gone into this impressive stop-motion animation.
Without spending too much time discussing the plot, this movie is
essentially a film about a misfit kid who ultimately must save the town
that has misunderstood and mistreated him for most of his life. Yes,
Norman sees dead people. However, everyone is aware of Norman's claim
of this power and they either ridicule him (other kids) or are ashamed
of his seemingly wild claim and erratic behaviour. Of course Norman's
extra-sensory powers will soon be required to rid the town of a curse.
The resulting events make for a great story and film.
There are several themes in this film that were well developed and ultimately resolved to my satisfaction. The animation is incredible, and I loved the creative camera shots that the director(s) chose in many scenes: much more advanced than the usual animated film.
I took 2 children to see this movie, a 6-year old girl and a (near) 4 boy. The kids loved the comedic zombie scenes in particular and were laughing out loud for much of it. They were frightened in other parts but in a functional thematic way, not to the point of nightmares. However I did note that some of the deeper themes went right over the kids' heads, and while they weren't too bothered by this fact, I advise that children over 8 might enjoy the film more fully.
The climax of the film is beautifully animated, and very poignant. On the whole a great film. I would state only that the humour surrounding the zombies was hilarious for adults and children alike, and I would have included more of it. Certainly this film is worth the admission. I saw it in 3D, it wasn't mind-blowing 3D but it certainly gave the film more texture.
The movie gets a ten form me. Considering I love these kind of films. I know a lot of folks feel this movie might not be geared towards children under 9. I'm far from a prune, but I would not take a five year old but.............. then again, I've watch children and they are much smarter than we give them credit for. so point? Judge for yourself. There were kids in the theater that appear to be about five-ish or seven- ish and they knew when to laugh and really enjoyed themselves. So again if it just you you will love it. If you have kids under nine It would have to be on you to decide. but I hardly think this movie will turn your kid in to a thug, or the devil spawns. It a good movie.
Yes, like most "kids" movies, it had it's corny, funny, sometimes just plain silly parts, but... Paranorman left me pleasantly surprised. First and foremost, if you didn't like this movie because you compared it to Caroline, that's your problem. This movie stands well on its own and it's completely unfair to make comparisons. By the time the movie had finished, the beauty of it shone through and, without hesitation, I would say it stands up very well against "blockbuster" films designed for mature audiences. It's neither vulgar or obscene, but there are a few parts in the movie that will go straight over the youngster's heads but you will most certainly get it if you're over the age of thirty and haven't been living in a cave. If you take your kid(s) to see this, be ready; there are a few intense scenes that might have them a little frightened. Regarding the poor guy who didn't want to see the Expendables 2, I didn't see it, either, but I sure heard it. They poorly placed this movie the very next theater over from it.
There have been numerous stop motion animation films but only a handful
have really stepped up to deliver something special. Coraline was one
of those films that delivered unique characters along with a
beautifully strange world like no other. Their latest ParaNorman looks
to continue this tradition but turning to the ever popular world of
zombies and horror. Can it deliver another new unique vision in this
style or will it just end up being another generic animated film?
ParaNorman follows a misunderstood boy who is able to speak to the dead. When the town is over thrown by zombies, a witches curse, and an angry mob it's up to him to push his abilities to the limit to save them all. This film not only delivers something new and different with an almost played out genre, it manages to stand out and entertain on numerous levels. Featuring an all-star voice cast of Casey Affleck, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tempestt Bledsoe, John Goodman, Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, Christopher Mintz-Plasse who step into their roles and bring these fun characters to creepy life. While this seems to be an animated kid's film, this was clearly made with all ages in mind. There are moments that some would deem not so kid friendly, but still manages to maintain its place among an almost all ages film. The animation is awesome with some strange character and set design that only adds to the originality and fun of this film. This film is formatted like an actual zombie film, but then takes some twists and turns to take it someplace new. The story is dark and fun all at once and will easily keep both adults and kids entertained. There are some classic monster movie moments that adults will appreciate as well as some subject matter that is a bit glossed over, but clearly takes a momentary step out of the family film.
This is easily not only one of the best stop-motion films to come along in some time; it's one of the best animated films. ParaNorman delivers in every way filled with comedy, horror, and action all wrapped up in a strange twisted visual tale that you will not soon forget.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nine times out of ten, debating a film's appropriateness for children
is utterly pointless. But in the case of "ParaNorman," a 3D stop-motion
animated film about ghosts, zombies, and a witch's curse, I cannot help
but wonder what age group the filmmakers had in mind. With its morbid
imagery, its broad and occasionally twisted sense of humor, and its
handling of dark issues such as bullying, death, and the execution of
suspected witches, I'm forced to conclude that it may not be
appropriate for anyone under the age of twelve. You, of course, know
your children much better than I do. All I'm asking is that you keep
what I'm saying in mind as you buy tickets especially if you decide
to shell out the extra cash for a 3D presentation. I should also note
that this is the first PG-rated animated film I know of to include a
If you don't have any children and frankly couldn't care less about the issue of how young is too young, you may find that "ParaNorman" is wonderful-looking, appropriately scary, and a great deal of fun. For someone like me, it represents a purer kind of horror movie, in which the purpose is to frighten and entertain without resorting to tacky marketing gimmicks like sex, nudity, and relentless gore. It's also not limited to craft, although that certainly does play a major role; a real story is being told, and it actually sends a message. I grant you that it's not a particularly original message, but it's good to hear nonetheless. Specific scenes are lovingly styled after schlocky B- movies, while others feature clever insider references. Any dedicated horror fan will be the first to tell you that the ringtone on the title character's cell phone is John Carpenter's "Halloween Theme."
Taking place in the New England town of Blithe Hollow, where a notorious history of witch trials are now used to attract tourists, we meet eleven-year-old Norman Babcock (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee), a zombie movie fanatic cursed with the ability to speak with the dead. He's surrounded by ghosts, all of which are only visible to him. Because he always appears to be talking to himself, he's an outcast in his community. At home, he's berated by his shallow teenage sister (voiced by Anna Kendrick), patronized by his liberal mother (voiced by Leslie Mann), and completely misunderstood by his overly stern father (voiced by Jeff Garlin), who clearly doesn't believe in ghosts. He has had it up to here with Norman making requests for his grandmother, who has already died. This is true, but her spirit still lives in the house, and she and Norman have regular conversations. Despite being dead, the grandmother (voiced by Elaine Stritch) made a promise that she would always watch over Norman, which is why she hasn't crossed to the other side.
At school, Norman is already an easy target for a bully named Alvin (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a brute and an idiot. Things only get worse when he begins having visions, which invade his reality like rips in the fabric of time. His only friend is Neil (voiced by Tucker Albrizzi), an innocent and portly boy who takes his daily bullying in stride and thinks Norman's ability is the coolest thing ever. One day, they're both approached by the other black sheep of Norman's family: His uncle Prenderghast (voiced by John Goodman), a hulking bum who lives holed up in a dilapidated house in the woods. He soon drops dead, although his spirit visits Norman in the boys' restroom and explains that his visions are related to a curse put on Blithe Hollow by a witch centuries earlier. This curse will take effect as soon as the sun goes down; the only way it can be stopped is if passages from an old book are read aloud at the witch's gravesite. Norman's sixth sense makes him the only person qualified to do this.
Inevitably, something goes wrong, and in due time, seven corpses are awakened from their cemetery slumber. As they lumber around town as groaning, rotted zombies, Norman, Neil, and Alvin team up with Norman's sister and the object of her affection, Neil's teenage brother Mitch (voiced by Casey Affleck), a dimwitted jock. Blithe Hollow's hall of records is the scene of the finale, where an angry mob gathers on the steps with pitchforks and torches. The zombies, meanwhile, are inside and slowly closing in on Norman, who's close to figuring out the meaning behind the witch's curse. What it really comes down to is intolerance, ignorance, and the inability to listen to one another in times of fear and confusion. True enough, these themes are far from original, but they certainly add depth and even some sweetness to an otherwise superficial tale of the macabre.
For the most part, the film is in the spirit of fun, walking the fine line between more mature thrills and family entertainment. There are select scenes, however, that push the limits of where a PG-rated movie can and should be allowed to go. The most glaring example is when Norman must pry a book from the lifeless hands of his uncle Prenderghast; as he struggles to free the book, the body is flung around like a ragdoll, and eventually, it falls on top of Norman, causing a huge length of tongue to roll out of the head and slap Norman in the face. Had this been a live action film, this scene would have been disgusting and perhaps even offensive. I believe that many kids will greatly enjoy "ParaNorman," but I also believe that some of them will find it frightening. Exercise caution when taking them to the movies this weekend.
-- Chris Pandolfi (www.atatheaternearyou.net)
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