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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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
The makers of Coraline and the beautifully crafted but story-lacking 9 brought us another animated movie that did not disappoint. Paranorman was in fact a surprising movie. Unlike any other animated movie, this one picks a new sort of approach, that would probably entertain both adults and children.
The film was shot using a Canon 5D Mark II DSLR Camera. To generate the 3D effect, the camera was mounted on a special rig that would take one shot, then slide to a slightly viewpoint to take another shot. However, to generate all the different faces needed for the characters, the film company Laika used 3D printers.
The movie takes place in the creepy town of Blithe Hollow, whose name is a mash up of two other ghost stories, Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit(1945) and Washington Irving's The Legend of The Sleepy Hollow(1949). Paranorman tells the story of 11 years-old Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit- McPhee), who can speak to ghosts. Unfortunately, Norman has no friends because people think he's weird. Even his father (voiced by Jeff Garlin) regrets how his son turned out to be. The movie is a little too horror oriented, but funny and suitable for children nonetheless.
The characters are well drawn, so you can understand each of their personalities: you have the nice fat kid called Neil (voiced by Tucker Albrizzi), the usual blonde teen (voiced by Anna Kendrick), the bully (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and the dumb jock (voiced by Casey Affleck). To be honest, my favorite was Neil.
To end with, Paranorman weaves a fantastically dazzling, consistently engaging and touching story. I really appreciated the level of maturity that has gone into this impressive stop-motion animation. A good movie in about every regard, that is fun and entertaining to watch, for both children and adults.
Norman's deranged uncle Mr. Prenderghast meets Norman and tells that he must protect Blithe Hollow from the witch curse. Soon Mr. Prenderghast dies and his ghost explains to Norman that he should get his book and perform a ritual in the witch's grave. Norman finds the book that is a fairytale and then he goes to the seven graves where the men that condemned the witch are buried. However, Norman is interrupted by the school bully Alvin and the dead arise and invade the town. Soon Norman has a dream and finds that the witch is the girl Agatha that was sentenced to death in 1712 due to her medium ability. Now Norman wants to convince Agatha that her revenge is turning her equal to those who killed her.
"Paranorman" is a stop-motion animation with a very funny supernatural story. Norman speaking with his grandma in the beginning and Mitch telling to Courtney that he has a boyfriend in the end are hilarious. The story has also a great message against the prejudice and ignorance. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Paranorman"
Just like in Coraline, the stop-motion animation is gorgeous and dazzling. The characters are all beautifully animated and everything feels alive, unlike CGI movies that sometimes may look cold (I'm especially thinking about Dreamworks movies).
The story of ParaNorman seemed a bit like a great-fun tribute to cheesy B-movies with funny characters. Well, it is by far better than this. The characters are deeper than I expected. And the last 30 minutes are incredibly surprising, thanks to a well-made twist unrevealed in trailers (which is really unusual nowadays) that leads to a fantastic, poetic and even sad climax. I'd say the final fight is the best of the year, by far.
To sum up, ParaNorman is a poetic, sometimes frightening and funny animation movie that everybody has to watch. It is at least as good as Pixar's best films, and I'm already waiting for the day ParaNorman will win an Oscar.
There is some good news. While we wait to found out if Burton finally does something great after almost 10 years, here we have a film that will give movie geeks really cool stuff. Needless to say, kids won't enjoy some of the elements that most likely you will, fellow reader. Well, you will if you're into very cool horror tributes, in the way Quentin Tarantino would be proud, and nice takes on witch-hunt and into zombies, of course. Talking about the zombies here, well, I recalled what Guillermo Del Toro's said about CRONOS; he said basically that the vampire from his film is like the saddest vampire ever. I won't say much, only that here we can think in the zombies as sad and confused human beings. The main character Norman is not the classic happy kid as well; you'll love him by just seeing his liking for horror – actually, not every day we have an animated movie that opens like something out of a Grindhouse. And there's good humor (and McLovin as a bully with stretched piercing – I watched the 2D Spanish dubbed version tough), so yes, it's worth watching!
*Watched it on 08 August, 2012
The movie also makes a stand against reactionary mob mentality, both in the 300 year old judicial murder of the 11 year old "witch" of town fame and the modern townsfolk's panic at the rise of 7 zombies who hurt absolutely no one. And why does all this happen? Because no one is Listening! Weren't you listening?
That said, the humor isn't funny, the acting isn't interesting, and the visuals? meh. They look like Jimmy Neutron, but less so.
I have to admit that I was concerned that ParaNorman would lead to insulting or trivializing the Wiccan/Pagan/Spiritualist/Paranormal community! But just the opposite happened! While maintaining a steady sense of humor from beginning to end ParaNorman is a many layered, very profound movie, that, quite frankly, is a masterpiece! The only movie as of August 2012 that I will purchase this year to add to my film collection!
If you are Pro Healing, Pro Courage, Pro Forgiveness, Pro Spiritual, Pro Witch, Pro Gay, and Pro Paranormal, like I am, then make sure you see this film before it leaves the theaters. Films this good don't usually last in mainstream theaters for very long. For example, the only other great film that I've seen this year, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" has been showing only on single screen in the Baltimore City & County, an area of over a million people!
Thank you Hollywood for sticking your neck out by making a movie for grown-ups, while at the same time making a film you can take the entire family to see!
The film starts off nicely as we slowly pan through the town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, which reminds one of a working-class section of Boston or any of those eastern or central Massachusetts towns that happen to feature rows of houses built in the 20s and 30s. We meet the film's protagonist, Norman Babcock, a boy with psychic powers who can communicate with his deceased grandmother inside the house as well as numerous ghosts out on the street. Norman is one of those 'misunderstood' kids who's ridiculed at school as a freak and forms a friendship with another outcast at school, Neil, an overweight kid, who is also constantly bullied.
In 'Coraline', most of the characters were eccentric but in 'Paranorman', except mainly for Norman and Neil, all the other characters, who are supposed to be funny, are actually either grotesque, mean-spirited or ignorant (some all of the above). The film's animators chose to highlight all the characters' negative attributes by exaggerating their physical deficiencies. For example, Norman's father, Perry, has an enormously protruding pot belly. He's also entirely unsympathetic as he considers his son's interest in psychic phenomena, an embarrassment to the family as well as the community at large. The Paranorman scenarists also fail to get any laughs from Norman's sister Courtney, who proves to be a caricature of a narcissistic teenager who's desperate to find a boyfriend. At the end of picture, we're supposed to laugh when she's rejected by Neil's older flat-topped, super-buffed Ron Howard looking brother, Mitch, who turns out to be gay.
Today it seems whenever we have a story about a young outcast, he'll always be pitted against a school bully. In this case it's Alvin, who sports a pig-like face and bears a faint resemblance to Bruce Willis. The obnoxious Alvin attempts to torment sensitive Norman until he realizes that everything his opponent is saying about a witch's curse that may destroy the town, comes true. Mrs. Henscher, the schoolteacher, is fairly amusing when she attempts to convince her school kids to emote better while they're performing a play about the 300th anniversary of the town, but later turns ugly (sporting a mud cake facial), joining a mob full of vengeful townspeople, who riot when faced with a group of hapless Zombies. There's also Sheriff Hooper, the overzealous police officer who thinks of shooting first and asking questions later (as the only African-American, some folks may find this character overly stereotypical).
Saving the worst character for last is Norman's deranged uncle, Mr. Prenderghast, who lives on the edge of town and resembles the town drunk--an individual who everyone in the town tries to avoid. Before Prenderghast has a heart attack and dies, he explains that the town is cursed by a little girl who was hung as a witch and took revenge on the seven Puritan townspeople from 300 years ago, who sentenced her to death. In an awfully tasteless scene, after Prenderghast kicks the bucket, rigor mortis sets in and the lifeless, stiff body falls on little Norman--who must extricate himself, not before being licked by the corpse's loose and gross, saliva-filled tongue.
In addition to all the unlikeable and charmless characters, there's also the amazingly derivative story line. Without the so-called comedy, 'Paranorman' would just be your average Zombie movie. The twist is that Paranorman cops out by becoming completely sentimental. The Zombies were not originally a hate-filled mob who sentenced poor little Agatha to death--they were merely 'afraid'. And now Norman points out, the mob full of Blithe Hollow denizens, have becomes just as bad as their cowering ancestors.
Norman ends up by making everything right by engaging in a 'heart-to-heart' with the now demented and vengeful little Agatha. Once Norman gets through to Agatha, the souls of the seven Zombies, finally make it to their eternal resting spots (along with of course, little Agatha) and Norman's family and the rest of the town, learn an important lesson about being tolerant of kids with extra sensory abilities as well as Zombies who were not actually hate-crazed bigots, but merely innocently caught up in the mass hysteria of their times.
Now all that's left is to figure out how this hopeless production became a hit. Well, of course there are all those kids into zombie movies; but what about the critics? Sadly, many of the critics have the sensibilities of all those kids who bought the tickets. Alas, little Agatha is no more. If only Norman could have directed her to have those knuckleheads (aka 'the critics') give 'Paranorman', the rating it deserved. It looks like Metacritic's completely misguided '72', will remain Paranorman's ultimate final composite rating, for all eternity!
An Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Feature Film (of 2012), and one of the better reviewed movies of the year, this stop-motion animated film tells the story of a boy who can communicate with dead people who's called on to save his town from a 300-year old curse. The film was written and co-directed (along with Sam Fell) by Chris Butler. Butler worked on the storyboards for other spooky animated films like 'CORALINE' and 'CORPSE BRIDE'. This marks his feature film directing and writing debut. The film was produced over the course of three years at a studio in Hillsboro, Oregon and is the first stop-motion animated film to use a 3D color printer to create it's character's faces (and the second to be shot in 3D). The voice cast includes the likes of Kodi Smit-McPhee (of 'LET ME IN' and 'THE ROAD' fame), Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin and John Goodman. I found the film to be a cut above the norm for this type of kid venture but not worth quite the critical rave it's received.
The film revolves around a boy by the name of Norman Babcock (Smit-McPhee) who is gifted with the ability of being able to speak to dead people. His family and other townsfolk in the small town of Blithe Hollow don't believe he can really communicate with spirits though and he's seen and treated as an outcast freak. A fellow classmate, who's also an outcast named Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), is the only one who believes Norman, along with Norman's uncle Mr. Prenderghast (Goodman). Mr. Prenderghast calls on Norman, one day, to protect the town from a 300-year old curse. Norman is informed that the curse was cast by a witch centuries ago and will bring about the living dead. Norman is reluctant to believe his uncle until zombies start walking the streets and it truly is up to Norman to use his special powers to save the day.
I have a hard time getting in to animated kid's films like this (especially stop-motion ones). Usually due to the fact that these films are all filled with one-dimensional characters and lame kid friendly jokes. This movie definitely has it's fair share of both these things but it also has a little more character and emotional depth than most animated films of this type. It also plays some good homage to monster films and has a nice retro feel to it (at times). The music is spectacular and it is a little more creepy and mature than you might expect from the trailers. It also has been praised (as well as condemned) for having the first openly gay character in a kid's film (which I think is a very good thing). The movie still has it's flaws and it isn't as cool as critics make it out to be but it is a decent, better than average animated kid's film.
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