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ParaNorman shares much in common with studio Laika's previous work,
Coraline, which was more tonally consistent (i.e. grim) but a batsqueak
less fun. Both films centre on a child outsider (here voiced by Kodi
Smit-McPhee) who sees the world differently, practically imprisoned by
their subjective view of the world; both films are a celebration of
uniqueness; and both films are as imaginative, thrilling and mature as
kids' animation gets outside Pixar Studios.
There's homage aplenty, from Evil Dead 2's disembodied hand, to Jason's hockey mask, to John Carpenter's Halloween theme (as Norman SMS tone). These are tropes so embedded in modern culture that while their specific origin may be shrouded from young children's understanding, they won't fly far over their heads.
Oddly, the most extended reference, deliberate or not, seems to be with Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain. The climactic encounter is an illusory, existential face-off, at once massively operatic and then ethereally tender. Perhaps this ending feels like a narrative shift too far, given the broad slapstick that precedes it - but it's the sign of healthy ambition that a film for a younger demographic should be as willing to provoke as it is simply to please.
The overarching message appears familiar - Live and Let Live - but there are deeper, more intricate themes under the skin of ParaNorman: forgiveness, tolerance, and the difference between justice and revenge. The similar Frankenweenie might also explore challenging themes, but it's to Chris Butler's and Sam Fell's credit that they've written and directed a film so much wittier, more exciting, and more moving than Tim Burton's mundane monochrome creature feature.
One last thing. The final pay-off for the muscle-headed Mitch (Casey Affleck) is brilliant and refreshing and likely to cause a storm of squeals from certain perennially outraged parents. To which I would respond: Grow up.
I had been waiting to see this movie since I saw the trailer several months ago though my friend wasn't so enthused since he felt it was too weird for his tastes especially when it was mentioned it was from the makers of Coraline. Both of us have now seen ParaNorman and while my friend liked it enough, I have to admit that while I liked the way it began and ended, the middle seemed to have too much going on that it was a while before I knew what was what and some of the characters besides Norman were hard to get a handle on. Still, the stop-motion animation was mostly awesome, I liked some of the music score, and, like I said before, the way the film began and ended were awesome. And there were some good 3-D images though I watched the regular 2-D version. So in summary, ParaNorman is very much at the least worth a look. Oh, and there's a nice after-end credits sequence that shows how Norman was made...
Every zombie convention and almost every sentimental animation lesson
are captured in the pleasant and ghoulish ParaNorman, about a little
boy, Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who can communicate with the undead as
well as deadly adults. Although Tim Burton might envy the comic
conventions mixed with the horror tropes, I would recommend it to any
sensible youngster 8 years and older. Others may find it too obsessed
with death to be considered light.
Norman Babcock's Sixth-Sense-like ability to communicate with the dead, including his ever-present grandmother (Elaine Stritch), makes him the de facto hero to communicate with these loose-limbed, shabby zombies about a curse related to an 18th century witch hunt that took an little girl's life, leaving her disgruntled and causing mayhem for 3 centuries. Norman eventually must settle with her on behalf of zombies and humans alike.
The stop-motion animation, from the LAIKA studio artists of the complicated Coraline, is soft in color and angular in faces, is a fine companion to the 3-D, both working to create a life-like but romantic, child-like wonder world. The opening homage to horror conventions sets a droll British humor that carries throughout the occasionally disgusting and alternately comical attacks.
And when zombies roll, the loose arms can project through the screen without it seeming contrived. The zombie bodies are so disjointed and slack as to need an ambivalent rag doll appearance to both scare and sooth. I know, I'm making little sense, but the animation is capable of scary and funny at the same time.
If it's possible for a moment to ignore the technical side, then consider the film's standard themes of accepting people's differences and integrating misfits into the mainstream. Kindness to others dominates the tropes.
A movie this grownup and light-hearted but dark and vengeful may encourage some parents to ban it and others to embrace itI'm in the latter group.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
ParaNorman is like junk-food, at first glance it looks good and initially taste good, but you feel bad after ingesting it! This is in contrast to the typical Pixar films,where as you walk away feeling good. Movie has dark and foreboding undertone. Storyline engages with societal taboos' which gave many people discomfort and/or initiates a reflexive "yuck" reaction. Adult at best, recommend parents not take their children to see it. Movie falls in the not too uncommon nether region of marginalization. Its neither an appropriate kids movie or a really appealing adult animation. This is typical of animations associated with Henry Selick or Niel Gaiman.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Paranorman was a must see for my best friend and I. I have been a fan
of The Nightmare Before Christmas since it's release, and have followed
many similar titles throughout the years including Corpse Bride,
Coraline, most recently Paranorman, and in the future, frankenweenie.
Paranorman doesn't come from Tim Burton, but has the same look and feel to it. Coraline was such an amazing film, and I wanted Paranorman to live up those expectations. Unfortunately, it fell a little short. This isn't a terrible thing though. Coraline easily gets a perfect score in my book. It's hard to follow up with such a great movie and expect the same results.
In short, Norman is an 11 year old boy who finds him self at passes with his family, and society as a whole. He is misunderstood by everyone around him, except for the dead who he can see and communicate with. He is hesitant when befriended by Neil, who also faces bullying in school. Neil serves as certain comic relief should the film become too dark or scary for young viewers. Meanwhile, Norman's uncle has been ostracized from his immediate family due to his ability to also communicate with the dead. He performs a ritual once a year to settle the angry soul of a young girl who was accused of being a witch, and was consequently put to death. Upon his death, which appears on film, the ghost of Norman's Uncle seeks Norman out to carry on the ritual. Norman must venture to his Uncle's house, pry the book from his dead hands, and read from the book on the tomb of the witch. While in the cemetery, Norman is sought out by main antagonist, Alvin, who wishes to further bully Norman. However, reading from the book is proving futile, as seven zombies are brought from the dead, and begin their pursuit of Alvin and Norman.
Meanwhile, Norman's older sister, Courtney, is your typical high school popular girl who is burdened with the task of babysitting Norman while his parents are out. She discover's he's missing, and goes to Neil's house, where she thinks she'll be able to collect him. She is greeted at the door by Neil's older brother, Mitch, who is just as typically popular as Courtney. He is handsome, buff, a football star, and not at all too bright. When he opens the door, he is in nothing but a towel. Courtney is in love.
Courtney, Mitch, and Neil go to the cemetery to look for Norman. They drive past him and Alvin, and encounter their first zombie. After, all five of this film's main characters are joined up and have to find the witch's actual burial site and stop the curse.
At this point, a very large sum of the movie can be explained as this: Norman and Co. Arrive at the center of town where they can find the true location of the witch's tomb. At this time, all hell is breaking loose. The townspeople know of the zombies and begin to hunt them. After a while of this, Norman fails in his attempt to soothe the witch, and learns that the zombies are not bad, and that they are even afraid of the humans. (the seven zombies were the seven people who convicted the little girl of being a witch 300 years ago.) the zombies then befriend the townspeople after Courtney demands attention to Norman. Then, Norman, Courtney, his parents, and main zombie, head to the burial site. Norman is confronted with the witch's enraged spirit. Norman begins to tell her the story of her life which only angers her more. He manages to grab her hand and cease her anger. He learns that the girl's name is Agatha, or Aggie. They confide in each other their similarities, such as being different. And Aggie is finally put to rest.
That is pretty much the plot.
Throughout, the movie is laced with adult humor and even adult themes. This movie was marketed towards children, but is more for teenagers and adults. Some of the parts may even be inappropriate for younger audiences. That being said, the movie deals with death, bullying, and even pokes at homosexuality which are all necessary components to adult life (the latter being tolerance). Children SHOULD be informed of these topics at a young age. And I applaud the writers for being so bold as to include these. Kids need to learn the dangers of bullying, and that it's okay for a boy to have a boyfriend (which should the children be young enough, this could be the first they hear about homosexuality.)
Anyways, I feel that the only conflicting factor for young children is that this movie is pretty scary. Your children won't understand the adult references, but you will find them funny.
Overall, aside from all the adult theme talk, it is a solid movie. Speaking as a fan of this type of film already, I say that the plot was a tad flawed, but nonetheless acceptable. For instance, Norman begins the film talking constantly to departed souls. This seems to fade out during the duration of the film. It's really only to set up that he can talk to the zombies and also Agatha. Furthermore, by the end of the film, you may have forgotten all about Norman's uncle (unless you were traumatized by him.) I forgot about him. And the ending sequence and climax does seem a bit drawn out. So based on plot alone, I give this movie a 7/10.
One more thing, i'd like to see if any fans of Silent Hill can draw the same parallels from this movie as I did.
The animation was good but I didn't feel this movie was suitable for children to be honest. Not only because of the zombies and scary parts but because of a few things I picked up while watching the film. One thing I noticed was Norman saying the words "Sex and Violence". I believe in subliminal messages, our minds are incredible and pick up on things and retain them. Even if we don't remember things consciously, we do subconsciously. These words should not be said in a children's movie. I know what I'm saying may seem like a very minuscule thing, but I feel we as a people are being desensitized and we are losing our morals and standards. I believe if we allow these little words to be said in a family movie, it will only get even worse later.
The animation is very well done, which I expected. The storyline,
however, is a bit stale, and flip flops quite a bit between different
themes. I think the writers tiptoed too much on the line of funny and
serious, and should have just gone straight in one of those 2
directions. Overall, the movie is worth seeing, especially if you're a
fan of such animation, zombie movies, etc.
What I don't understand is the overwhelming amount of people who find the movie offensive. I've seen a large amount of people complaining that the movie violates their Christian morals, offended them as parents, among other complaints. The movie is just that, a movie. It's a story. Yes, it portrays things such as zombies, witches, ghosts, and other supernatural beings. Thousands of other movies do the same, and just because this one portrays them in a less serious, less evil manner, you condemn it as being unmoral? Get over yourselves.
It was OK. My kids were in awe the whole time. Good and bad awe. The plot was nice and I liked it, but there where several things that concerned me and even my kids. (13, 8, and 6) It had a lot of adult content. We were quite disappointed in the Disney Channel advertisement, yet it was a TNT or USA channel type movie. The boundaries are definitely being pushed with this one. It wasn't a waste of money, but it was not a movie I would let them see again...for a very long time. A lot of families left after this movie, and it was the first of a double feature. I shake my finger and head on this one people.
What directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler have created here is basically
the best Tim Burton film in over a decade. "ParaNorman" tells the
animated tale of (you guessed it) Norman, who is every bit the
archetype of a weird/misfit/Haley Joel Osment child (scrawny and
susceptible to wedgies) who everyone (including his own father and
sister) thinks is a "mental case" for some reason
and I guess it
doesn't help his case that Norman seems to have the ability to
communicate with ghosts. One afternoon, after a day of being bullied,
his estranged (and very insane) uncle informs Norman that since he is
very sick, it is now Norman's duty to conduct an age old ritual at an
old town gravesite every year (from that point forward) in order to
save the town from a century's old curse. Norman, as with any child
facing a chore given by an elder, ignores his uncle's ramblings, but
when he begins to have strange visions (yes, stranger than seeing dead
people) he find himself in a real life horror movie, where he must find
out the truth about the town's dark secret, before it's too late. Oh,
but don't worry, this cartoon is not as scary as I just made it sound,
because Norman is given a fat friend named Neil who accompanies him on
this quest of sorts. And we all know having a fat friend (sidekick) is
the recipe for hilarity, even in the horror genre.
Side Note: Aside from the overall cartoonish/but still horror based atmosphere that moves throughout this film like a fog, "ParaNorman" also contains thematic elements which may not be appropriate for any child under the age of eight. Examples of these thematic elements would be: A child coming to grips with death and letting go and some very witty, but fairly dark-comedy dialogue sprinkled throughout. So, if you don't want little Timmy or Suzie (assuming they are under the age I have stipulated) asking you if dead grandma's ghost is going to come back and haunt your house, then you might not want to take them to see this movie.
Even with a seemingly interesting storyline, still some audiences may be compelled to complain that the characters within it are as generic as the underwhelming animation. Example: Norman is shy and lacking courage and Neil has a knack for helping shy friends, who lack courage find their inner courage. With that said, due to a very cleverly written script (containing some very funny dialogue) from Butler, the generic characters are given an individual jolt of personality; and hence the entire movie is saved from becoming just another forgettable animated film such as (dare I say it?) "Coraline". Yes, I realize a lot of people loved "Coraline" and it was nominated for an Oscar, but what these same people fail to realize is that "Coraline" is average at best.
Final Thought: " ParaNorman" was made for the multitude of people who loved watching horror films in their youth. This film is the perfect mixture of spooky and funny, with just the right touch of sentimentality throughout. But overall, the highest praise I could give "ParaNorman" is that it truly is the most entertaining animated film I've seen all year. And while amongst your "Ice Age 4: Continental Drift" and "Madagascar 3" this may not mean all that much, "ParaNorman" is definitely a film worth checking out for viewers of any age above eight; even if you are one of those close-minded few who won't see anything that is not a Pixar creation or that doesn't have a talking zebra/dinosaur/panda/barn yard animal in it.
Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland Follow me on Twitter @moviesmarkus
I love claymation movies and the animated stories they are famous for
telling. The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, and the Corpse Bride
are classic examples of the movies that keep us entertained, make us
laugh, and if done right can add some wicked twists to maximize the
story. So when I saw Paranorman coming out this weekend, naturally I
got excited again and my hope of clay mation redeeming itself after
Pirates was sprung anew. What did I think about it? Please read on to
Paranorman comes from the same studio that brought you Coraline, and follows the horror path much like its older sister. The plot, for those coming into the news late, is about Norman, a boy who has the uncanny ability to communicate with the dead. His unique gifts though are not accepted by his family and peers, which results in him getting ridiculed and pushed around. However, Norman's unique gifts will come in handy when the departed witch of the town decides to return and with it raise the dead to attack the town. What nightmarish fun is to be had with the colorful cast?
This movie is definitely not as dark as Coraline. Instead, the staff decided to swap the warped, creepy dimensions of the spider queen's world for a more country town classic that is kid friendly. Although some of the residents are not alive, they still look funny and friendly to make both young and young at heart chuckling at the crafty design. In fact until the witch begins to wake, the only scary thing in this movie is the subject of death, which for a kid's movie is surprisingly covered thoroughly. Despite this, most younger audience members didn't seem bothered as the team added some comedic moments to mask the sad topic. Even when the trouble starts the scare factor of the movie is still relatively low as most of the scenes are still more funny than terrifying; the exception of course being a few screams, roars, and other sudden noises that can make you jump.
Those looking for some cute family fun will be entertained by this film. For one thing all of the characters in this movie are funny in some form or manner. The dad has cranky one liners, the mom sort of an airheaded caring that is humorous, the jock being dumb, the bully oblivious, etc. This diversity helped me continue to laugh at the movie as well as latch on to a few of the characters to pull for them. My two favorites for this movie are of course Norman and Neil. Norman is not as funny as the other characters, but his good heart, courage, and other qualities are very relatable to me. With this connection, Norman's adventure and journey were more exciting to watch, perhaps even a little inspiring for me. Neil on the other hand has that ridiculous child humor that I love. Whether it's being a klutz, mispronunciation of countless words, or just spouting out dumb child sayings, I was laughing the whole way through as I visualized a clay Chunks from the Goonies.
The other strength of this movie is the animation. Again I'm a sucker for the hard work that Claymation is, and once again I was impressed. Norman and the gang move smoothly through their environment from simple walking and talking, to running and escaping zombie attacks. It surprised me how much detail they took to the animation, even making the sister's hips sway as she moved. This fantastic animation also matched the voice work from the cast, which may be no problem for computer animation, but is sure to be more of a challenge for clay animation. Even the ghosts floating motions were well done, the gestures and facial expressions mirroring the attitudes of the ghosts in the movie. As for zombie moves, well again the team did their homework and got the slow, dragged, labored movements down pat as well. The editing of the movie also helped keep the movie fun, organized, and smooth in both story and movement as Norman continued to journey through the dead.
Despite all the fun I had with this film though and the amazing animation, there are still a few things that were a little weakening. For one the story is fun and moving, but for the most predictable and clichéd. I admit there were a few surprises in the film, one very big twist I didn't see coming, but other than that you see most things coming. The lack of darkness also was a little disappointing as well, and could have helped keep things diverse and suspenseful for me. There are some other weaknesses in this film like lack of adult humor, a few dragged out speeches and chases, and a few stale jokes, but these are minor mistakes that barely affect the grade.
Paranorman may not be the most fun film of the summer, but it does its job well. Most kids and their parents will enjoy the cuteness of the movie, maybe even to the point of immediately quoting the characters in the movie. The diverse characters are quite welcoming and the story is a nice fun adventure most people will love. I warn you once more, in case you haven't gotten the message, that Coraline's darkness is barely present in the film, so skip this film if you must have that darkness. Regardless Paranorman is good in both 3-D and regular, though if you have the option to see it regular I would go for that. My scores for this film are down below: Animation/Adventure/Comedy: 8.5 Movie Overall: 7.0-7.5
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