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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sam Fell's "ParaNorman" is an interesting animated film revolving
around Norman Babcock, a young kid who can both see and converse with
Like many recent animated films ("How To Train Your Dragon", "Battle for Terra", most Pixar features etc), "ParaNorman" goes past subtle moralising and into naked politics. And so Norman is bullied and persecuted for "being different", whereby his "difference" is merely a form of sensitivity which allows him to be empathetic to the plights of the dead, persecuted and abused. Norman then comes across the ghost of a dead girl who was once murdered by a gang of adults for "being different". This girl internalises their hate and redirects violence back at Norman's town in what are essentially a series of terrorist actions. Local mobs then hound, bully and blame Norman for the girl's behaviour. Hoping to put an end to this cycle of violence, the original murderers of the girl appear to local townsfolk, intent on taking blame for her violence. Unfortunately they are themselves promptly assaulted, again for being "different".
For a kid's film, "ParaNorman" is surprisingly theme heavy: tolerance, kindness, forgiveness, bigotry, xenophobia, individual responsibility in mob situations, violence-begets-violence, hug-a-bully, learn why terrorists terrorise, face what frightens you, understand why monsters are made of misunderstanding, we're all weird, we're all monsters in our own ways, ecological mindfulness, the commercialization of terror...such things are routinely rolled out throughout the film. Epitomizing the film's liberal minded view that kids should be treated as complicated, intelligent and resilient creatures, are two scenes. In one, Norman matter-of-factly tells his mom that he's watching "sex and violence" on TV, in the other, a key character, portrayed as an alpha male throughout the film, is revealed to be homosexual. Everything is okay, the film says, so long as you cultivate healthy fears and a healthy desire to understand.
Saying the right things, though, do not a great movie make. Whilst "ParaNorman" is at times very good, it's also derivative of such films as "Monster House", "The Frighteners" and "Corpse Bride", its script is familiar and never surprises, its ideas are unsubtly delivered, its animation is ordinary, and the film rarely thrills, humours or scares. For movie geeks, the film offers many homages and nods to "classic" horror movies.
7.5/10 Worth one viewing.
A highly enjoyable kids film.
This is a simple easy to watch kids film that looks amazing. The stop motion on the this film is incredible and something to be commanded. With the villains of the film looking truly dreadful which is great to see in a film of this type.
The story is relatively simple and easy to understand. Outsider has special powers. Finds out he is the only one that can save the day using those powers. With it being easy to understand it makes it quite an easy watch. The only criticism of the plot would be that it is to obvious with its message.
*** (out of 4)
Norman, a picked on kid who can see the dead, must save his small town when a witch comes back to curse the town that put her to death three-hundred years earlier. PARANORMAN isn't a complete success but it's certainly entertaining enough to make it worth viewing at least once. I think the strongest thing going for the film is the look, which is quite beautiful during every frame. The entire film has a very dark look to it, which is wonderful but the best looking scenes happen when the witch appears in the sky. The green tone that flies through the air and through the streets was just something really neat looking and it certainly helped give the film an original look. I also thought the characters were very entertaining and this includes the weird kid Norman who has conversations with his dead grandmother, various ghosts on the way to school and of course he loves watching horror movies on television. The supporting group includes his fat friend, his older brother, Norman's sister and the bully at school. The monsters were also fun for the most part and this includes some zombies as well as the witch. The weak spots in the film include the final but the entire tone of the film is also quite serious. I think a little bit more human would have helped things. Adults should also catch several nice jokes including a take on a scene from Mel Brooks' YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. Again, this film is far from perfect but it's certainly entertaining.
I'll start by admitting I watched this by myself. I'd even wanted to see it when it was in theaters. I found myself laughing at slightly more adult jokes only minutes in. I honestly found this move delightful and laughed at a majority of jokes in the movie. The characters were all charming and funny, especially Neil.Some moments were slightly scary especially with the background music! But not anything that would give a kid 10 years or older a nightmare. The movie developed quickly which I liked and it was pretty short and I was left wanting more. I would recommend this movie to a wide audience but not too young I felt some of the themes and jokes were more for tweens and adults. Overall I loved this movie!
The reviews for ParaNorman are all over the map. It might have been one
of the reasons I didn't actually see it on the big screen. Not a good
reason, mind you, but a reason.
So when I had the opportunity to rent it, I went in with no expectations.
This stop-motion animated (that's right, stop-motion-- not computer generated) film has all the charm and warmth that comes with stop motion. Tim Burton's "A Nightmare Before Christmas" is a wonderful example of awesome stop-motion animation. There is something about photographing real objects that lends a touch of reality that is still lacking in most CGI. It's why performances with puppets still exist in this age of hyper-realism; why Yoda in the original Star Wars still looked more real than his CGI counterpart. Sure, he was restricted by what a puppet could do, but you could feel his presence on-screen. Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) recently tweeted that his daughter saw the original Star Wars' for the first time, and commented that "Oh-- Yoda is real!" From the mouth of babes.
ParaNorman is about a boy who sees dead people. Everywhere. Apparently, this is a family ability (or curse), that has been handed down from generation to generation. Norman is your typical outcast, with rigid upright hair that makes him look like he's always in a state of permanent shock. We meet Norman's quirky Uncle Penderghast, who maintains the secret duty of "keeping a particular witch's curse" at bay. It is time now to pass that responsibility onto Norman, who really is just trying to fit in at school.
A mis-spoken incantation in a wrong graveyard leads to the rise of a crew of living dead zombies (is there any other kind?), and a really ticked off witch.
The film kicks into high gear from here to the end, with crazy car chases, hilarious zombie mishaps, and a bully turned friend (not a spoiler-- you could see it coming from a mile away), as well as wonderful redemption.
Tons of fun! Oh, and watch for what are sure to be merchandise tie-ins-- like Zombie Slippers and Zombie Alarm clocks!
A misunderstood boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) takes on ghosts, zombies and
grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse.
While I have not seen Laika's first full-length film ("Coraline"), I think these are a group of animators to keep your eyes on. They may not have the budget of Disney, Pixar, or even Aardman (I assume), but they have turned a decent profit on two films now and have attracted some incredible talent.
I know nothing about animation firsthand, but it seems that stop-motion is a dying art, or at least was dying. With both "ParaNorman" and "Pirates" in 2012, perhaps a minor resurgence is coming? While I presume that this technique takes longer than drawn animation (especially now that computers can aid in the drawing), I think the final product has a superior, more enjoyable look.
Based solely on this film's appearance, I think it is a solid contender for Best Animated Feature. "Pirates" is a strong contender and "Frankenweenie" or "Brave" is probably the front-runner, but I would not give up on Norman... I was awed by the craft here more than I have been with the other choices.
As far as the film's message, which seems to be about giving diversity a chance, it is a good message. Whether or not it comes through or not is another story. The sister rarely strays from the "dumb blonde" stereotype, and the "fat kid" is shown stuffing his face with food falling down his shirt... so it seems like they are telling us to give people a chance while reinforcing classic negative stereotypes.
There is one line in the film that has garnered a fair amount of attention. I will not reveal it here for those who have not yet seen it (you will know which line if you have). While I understand the reason behind this line getting so much attention (both positive and negative), I do hope the film is not judged solely on this part alone. Fora few to succeed or fail because of it would be terrible regardless of which side you fall on.
I sought this film out because it was one of the nominees for the Oscar
for Best Animated Feature. I am glad I did as this is an fun and funny
family film using the stop-animation technique in a most fluid and
advanced execution. My kids enjoyed it as much as I did. However, the
story involves intense horror elements like witches, ghosts and zombies
which may be too scary for younger kids.
The titular Norman of "ParaNorman" is a sensitive boy who has the so- called "third eye," which enables him to see and actually speak with spirits. This "gift" however makes poor Norman the target for harsh bullying in school. One day, before he died, his similarly gifted uncle, Mr. Penderghast, bequeathed to Norman the duty of placating the town ghost witch which threatens to terrorize their town of Blithe Hollow every year. When Norman fails to perform the ritual correctly, the zombies and the witch herself, wreak their havoc on the town. Can Norman and his friends reverse the curse, placate the spirits and save Blithe Hollow from a ghastly destruction?
The animation employed by Laika Productions for this film is reminiscent of their previous hit films, "Coraline" in 2009 and "Corpse Bride" in 2005. I was also reminded of another horror animated film called "Monster House." The grotesque misshapen faces and bodies of the ghosts and zombies were done very well, just the right amount of scary for their intended young audiences. The dramatic moments are written just right to discuss important issues of bullying, tolerance, and redemption, yet remain to be very entertaining for the kid and adults alike.
After viewing all the nominees for the Oscar for Best Animated Film this year, I find "ParaNorman" to be the top contender for the prize!
A companion piece to Tim Burton's vintage horror homage Frankenweenie, ParaNorman retains the stop-motion animation and young, misfit boy protagonist, but does away with references to the black and white classics of the genre in favour of riffing on more modern fright flicks like Friday the 13th, Halloween and the entire zombie output of George A. Romero. It doesn't hold back with the scares and gore either - the PG rating is pushed to its very limits within the opening seconds when a mushy brain is stepped on, complete with squishy sound effects and oozing blood - and it rarely lets up from there as the ghost-seeing Norman (Kodi-Smit McPhee) must battle zombies and witches to save his town. The violence is cartoonish and endearing enough to escape being taken serious, but there are genuine scares which may not be appreciated by the littler audience members. Others will relish the non-stop nods and winks, as well as the steady line of humour running throughout. Norman's proudly pudgy sidekick Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), basically a red-haired version of Russell from Up, is utterly hilarious too. A disgustingly cool love-letter to horror films.
Ever since "The Nightmare Before Christmas" there has been an
inexplicable connection between stop-motion animation and horror
motifs. Tim Burton has been responsible for most entries in this small
but noticeable canon, but Laika has found an equally quirky yet more
mainstreamed alternative in Chris Butler's "ParaNorman."
Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) can see dead people, namely the ghosts of his town, a Salem-inspired village named Blithe Hollow. His "gift" has made him the victim of bullying at school and because he can see his dead grandmother at home, his parents (Leslie Mann and Jeff Garlin) think he's just acting out and can't move on.
The story of the gifted and misunderstood outsider perfectly overlaps both horror and family film tropes, but in spite of the ghosts, witches and undead, "ParaNorman" is significantly less scary than Laika's previous feature, "Coraline." The creature-feature vibe adds character and a distinctive flair to what's otherwise a story geared toward kids.
As you might imagine, Norman's ability to see and talk to the dead turns into everyone's last hope. Norman's estranged relative Mr. Prenderghast (John Goodman), who shares Norman's gift, passes a critical responsibility onto Norman: keep the witch, who cursed the people of Blithe Hollow years ago after being condemned to die, from raising the dead.
With the unrequested help of his new friend, Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), a pretty dumb kid but one who's thick-skinned and ever cheerful, Norman sets out to uncover the truth to what happened in Blithe Hollow years ago and fulfill his responsibility. His bratty sister (Anna Kendrick) and Neil's brother, Mitch (Casey Affleck), also get wrapped up in the adventure.
"ParaNorman's" top highlight is without a doubt the visual artistry. With the assistance of computers, stop-motion animation can look absolutely incredible, and when you consider the multitude of supernatural occurrences in the film, it could not have been easy to execute. The general design of the production has this excellent abstract and asymmetrical style that works really well, especially in the character design. Stop-motion has always opted for caricature as opposed to realism, but the Cubist slant of "ParaNorman" stands out among Burton-inspired claymation.
Of all these aforementioned qualities, however, none suggests a unique family film experience or gives reason to elevate "ParaNorman" ahead of other horror-themed movies for kids. Helping "ParaNorman" entertain all-ages audiences is its clever incorporation of actual horror movie techniques and homages to everything from B-movie horror to '80s slashers. These nuggets are tastefully and sharply included rather than stuffed in, which isn't hard considering the film is a breeze to watch.
And you can't discredit the heart needed to make a family film resonate. "ParaNorman" uses a simplistic delivery method for its themes of what it means to be different and how that should or shouldn't impact how you treat others, but while it's overt in that sense and arguably even tailors its plot to send that message, the message itself is a fundamental question of human nature. In today's movies, revenge is so often a substitute for a more complicated character motivation, but Butler breaks it down and addresses it in a way that's appropriate and easy to understand/consider.
Much of "ParaNorman" at a surface level lacks originality, but Butler and co-director Sam Fell make up for it with rich visual detail, clever references and a sincere, amusing wit. It offers something for kids, parents and horror fans of all ages, all while going down pretty smooth. The effort behind this film offers all the more evidence why animated filmmakers are by far the smartest and most creative among other genres.
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I was anticipated to see this movie in theaters, but sadly, I missed it
and was hoping to get it on a DVD copy. However, on my plane trip to
Hawaii, I watched it on a small screen with most people. Like them, I
was visually blown away because of it's intriguing concept and premise.
I will admit that while it's deeper themes may frighten kids ages 8-10,
this is a beautifully well made motion-capture animated feature from
the company that brought us Coraline.
Sam Fell, the director of The Tale of Despereaux, did a fantastic job at making a misfit-turned-to-hero story with some very emotionally haunting moments in the overall darker tone of the film. The dialog is mostly witty and sharp with some nice humorous moments and the writing is both unique and creative. The characters are pretty good too with the help of a great voice cast including Kodie Smith McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Casey Affleck, John Goodman, and Christopher Mintz Plasse; the leading role is likable as well. The music from Jon Brion is beautiful, haunting, and dark that it's hard not to forget it.
Overall, ParaNorman came this close to becoming a masterpiece, but it's unique premise, a touching story, and emotional characters makes this worth-watching for everyone young and old. My advice to those who haven't seen it, go watch it; it is that good.
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