ParaNorman (2012)

by Paul on January 19, 2013

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When watching an animated feature I find myself being torn between my personal enjoyment of the film and the parent in me deciding which of my children I would let watch the film. Typically, if I enjoy the movie I will be watching it again with me kids, but then I saw “ParaNorman” (2012). Never before have I seen an animated movie that stretched the limitsParaNorman (2012) of a PG rating so much. It’s not that it should have been a PG-13 movie; it just surprises me that it has the same rating as most other animated features that come out every year.

“ParaNorman” is a stop-motion animation film that tells the story of 11 year old Norman Babcock (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee), who lives in Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts. He has the unusual ability to talk to the dead, even though nobody, including his parents, believes him. His eccentric Uncle Prenderghast (voiced by John Goodman) informs him that it is Norman’s responsibility to keep the ghost of an evil witch (voiced by Jodelle Micah Ferland) from rising from the dead and haunting the town. Despite Norman’s efforts, he is unable to find the witch’s grave in time, and a small group of zombies rise from their graves and begin chasing Norman and the school bully, Alvin (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Soon they join with Norman’s sister, Courtney ParaNorman (2012)(voiced by Anna Kendrick), Norman’s classmate, Neil (voiced by Tucker Albrizzi), and Neil’s older brother, Mitch (voiced by Casey Affleck). Now these five youths are forced to take on the zombies as Norman continues his search for the witch’s grave, in order to prevent her from destroying the town.

I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t enjoy this movie, because I found it to be delightfully funny, with a twisted and somewhat disturbing kind of humor. The screenplay was written by Chris Butler and the film was directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell. One can assume that both of these guys watched a fair amount of “B” horror films in their time and wanted to make an animated movie in their style. They certainly have succeeded. “ParaNorman”embodies everything one has come to love about a “B” horror film, and it even updates it for a new generation of zombie fans.

Zombies have become part of today’s pop culture. For years zombies have been the villains of our movies, but now they are on movies, TV shows, books and even video games. They used to be dark and scary, but now they can be comical, like inParaNorman (2012) “Zombieland” (2009).  One of the highlights of“ParaNorman” is when the zombies and the townspeople square off in the streets. Throughout cinematic history this is the point where the townspeople begin running for their lives, but in today’s “zombie loving” world, these townspeople knew what needed to be done, and began an attack on the poor defenseless zombies. It’s really quite a sight to see.

In addition to being a well made stop-motion film, “ParaNorman” is highly entertaining and enjoyable. Some films make jokes about bad movies from the past, but this one honors those same bad movies by making this film as a tribute. Be aware that this film deals heavily with the subjects of zombies rising from the dead, witches, and I even read that it became the first PG film to ever have one of the main characters be homosexual.

“ParaNorman” has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It has some pretty difficult competition against “Pirates Band of Misfits” (2012) and the three Disney nominees, “Brave” (2012), “Frankenweenie” ParaNorman (2012)(2012) and “Wreck-It Ralph” (2012). After a moderate showing at the box office (at least for a movie that cost 60 million dollars to make), it is good to see “ParaNorman” getting recognized for their innovation and their excellence in quality animation.

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