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Movie Review: ParaNorman

Published September 1, 2012 by mrsrag

Starring the voices of: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Jodelle Ferland, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alex Borstein, John Goodman.

Rated PG.  Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes.

What a pleasant surprise ParaNorman turned out to be.  Although, I wasn’t expecting much to begin with.  I definitely wasn’t tripping over my feet to get to the theatre for this one, but it was probably the best film I’ve seen in a few weeks.  We go to the movies A LOT.  Not just for the sake of writing relevant reviews, but because we love going.  Once again, the movie was 3-D, which is starting to literally drive me crazy.  I don’t even remember a great deal of the 3-D effects, so how good could they really be?  I do remember the story, which was unique and, quite frankly, a little scary.  However, it balanced its chilling undertones with clever humor and an intriguing gang of characters.  The plot and theme explored some similar topics we’ve seen in a lot of children’s films lately; bullying, tolerance and the importance of friendship.  Sounds familiar, I know, but I’m glad they are broaching these important subjects.  Especially the bullying, which has become a prevelant issue across the country.  It seems bullying has been on the rise with the influx of technology into our children’s lives or maybe we’re just becoming more aware of it.  One thing I’m certain of is that there are MORE ways to bully now.  A bully is not just confined to confronting their victims at school, they have outlets such as cell phones and computers.  They can harass by text, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter etc. etc. etc.

It is good to see Hollywood adressing bullying, a serious problem in this country.  ParaNorman does a good job of that and much, much more.  The same people that brought us Coraline, the animation company LAIKA along with Focus Features, have created another entertaining but dark tale.  Norman (Smit-McPhee) is a loner who constantly sees the dead (they all seem to really like him too), much to the chagrin of his father (Garlin) who just wants a normal kid.  Their relationship totally reminded me of the father/son dynamic from the film Chicken Little, his dad just wanted CL to stop with “The sky is falling” routine.  At any rate, as Maria pointed out there are meaningful themes in ParaNorman and they are delivered very well.  The only downside is that some of the visuals are quite frightening.  Readers of our blog know that we see lots of kids movies with my son Ethan who is 8.  He was pretty brave thoughout, but I would certainly think twice taking anyone younger than him.  The zombie chases, a scene with Norman’s crazy uncle and a couple of scenes with the “witch” were great cinema, but intimidating in the stop-motion 3-D animation.

Ethan was very brave, but I think you’re right Ross, 8 and up is a pretty good policy for this one.  It was a fairly difficult story to bring to the screen for its intended audience.  They really had to be cogniscent of how dark and scary it got.  This seems to be a recurring theme in Hollywood.  I loved the Harry Potter series, which Ross turned me onto, and that took some very dark turns for its intended age group as well.  We’ve really started to become quite lax when it comes to entertainment ratings for kids.  This seems most apparent in The Hunger Games trilogy that recently took to the big screen.  That first installment just seemed too mature for children under 16, in my opinion.  ParaNorman isn’t nearly as daring with pushing the boundaries as the aforementioned films are, but it still flirts with that very thin line of acceptability.  I enjoyed seeing the use of the less popular stop-motion animation in this movie, which reminds me of claymation in some ways.  In fact, I thought it was claymation until Ross informed me otherwise.

This was a tough movie to review for me.  I did enjoy ParaNorman, it had a lot of heart.  I liked Norman, he’s a good kid.  My favorite part of the movie was the friendship that he and Neil (Albrizzi) formed.  Neil is an overweight boy who gets picked on and doesn’t have any friends, but he hasn’t let that ruin his zest for life, and he is a fantastic friend.  I guess the “problem” I’m having is, that when we see an animated movie we really love, we generally can’t wait until it comes out on video so we can rent it or buy it.  Sometimes we will even go see it again in the theater.  I don’t have that feeling with ParaNorman, but I’m still going to recommend you see it.  I think because it’s so different.  No madcap romp through (Madagascar), or race around (Cars), Europe here.  Just a good story with good lessons.

ParaNorman isn’t rocketing to the top of my favorite animated movies list, but it’s worth a watch.  If your kid really wants to go see it, bring them – you won’t be disappointed.

Maria’s Rating: 2.75 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating:  3 Gummies.