It’s so much better than you’d ever think.
Just to start off, forget every preview you ever saw from ParaNorman. Personally, I was dreading sitting through this newest flick from the team that brought moviegoers Coraline. Much to my surprise, though, it turned out to be a really great film, and one I would suggest everyone take their children to see.
It’s not so much that ParaNorman is a new-age classic, but it is a film that packs some incredible messages every child should learn and does so in an easily accessible manner without coming across as preachy. And the best part is parents will like the film well enough, but also they will enjoy knowing their kids enjoyed it.
In a unique blend of genres, ParaNorman creates what will probably be one of the next great children’s Halloween movies by blending humors and a homage to the terrible B-Horror films of yesteryear. From zombies moaning “braaaaains” to a synthesizer-inspired soundtrack, the movie pulls all of its elements together to create something great.
The story follows a young boy named Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who lives his life as an outcast because of his ability to talk with the dead. Constantly bullied and misunderstood, Norman feels all alone. That is, until it becomes his responsibility to save the town from a 300-year-old curse that will raise the dead. So, he reluctantly sets off with his new friend Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), local bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), ditzy sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick) and muscle-brained jock Mitch (Casey Affleck) to battle zombies and ghosts for the fate of the town that treated him like a freak.
ParaNorman utilized a unique style of stop-motion animation that finds its charm not only in its overall design but also in the slightly disjointed feel to its fluidity. It is reminiscent of films that are right at home in Tim Burton’s catalog, but it seems to have a little bit more depth to it than just being an excuse to bring morbidity to children. The directorial team of Chris Butler (who also wrote the script) and Sam Fell capture a bit more heart behind the character and really focus on the overall themes of the film.
At its heart, the movie is about accepting those who are different from you. Norman is just a regular kid who is an outcast because people are afraid of him and his ability. It’s not only about accepting people who are different, but also about showing that just because a large group of people believe something doesn’t mean they’re right. This is subtly reflected repeatedly throughout the film (which I won’t spoil for you). The point is, ParaNorman teaches kids about the dangers of intolerance, but also teaches them to break away from group mentality. Its message is for kids just to be themselves, which might sound a little melodramatic, but it conveys this idea while still being a fun adventure for everyone.
Suffice it to say, ParaNorman is on the fast track to the Oscars, and stands a good chance at going toe-to-toe with Pixar’s Brave. At the very least, you owe it to yourself and your children to see this movie in theaters. Even if you don’t have any rugrats of your own, it’s a great movie that will touch on enough nostalgic elements and universal themes to let you escape from the monotony of everyday life. Plus, the film is very pretty, enough so to be worth the extra bucks for 3D. After all, if they’re going to take the time to do a stop motion film, audiences might as well dish out the extra three bucks to see it the way it’s meant to be seen.