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Movie Review: Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2

Published October 10, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring the voices of:  Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Terry Crews, Kristen Schaal, Khamani Griffin.

Rated: PG.  Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes.

 

My son Ethan (freshly turned 10 on Oct 2nd) had already seen Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, but asked if Maria and I would take him again, which was a very good sign.  Having seen the first one, and finding it quite mediocre, I can’t say I was doing cartwheels about going, but we went anyway.  The kid was right!  Not just better than the original, MUCH better.  Flint Lockwood (Hader) invented a machine that turned water into food.  In the first movie, everything was going along great on his island hometown of Swallow Falls until the machine runs amok (the food becomes enormous) and has to be shut down.  At the beginning of 2, Flint is about to embark on a new business venture with his love interest, meteorologist Sam Sparks (Faris) when we find out the aforementioned machine, is still working in the wilderness and creating horrible “foodimals” that are threatening to overrun the Earth.  The residents of Swallow Falls are evacuated to San Franjose, California.  Chester V (Forte), inventor, entrepreneur and Flint’s hero, has been enlisted to lead the effort to stop the machine and eventually needs help from Flint and his gang.  Also back from the first movie are: Flint’s pet monkey Steve (NPH), his bushy eyebrowed, sardine loving dad Tim (Caan), chicken suit wearing Brent (Samberg), police officer Earl (Crews) and his son Cal (Griffin) and Sam’s cameraman Manny (Bratt).  An eclectic group to say the least, Chester sends them back to the island, and this is where the movie really begins.  The “foodimals” and food puns steal the show.  There are tacodiles, watermelophants, shrimpanzees, bananostriches, and peanut butter and jellyfish, just to name a few.  We learn along the way that everything isn’t quite what it seems as pertains to who’s good and bad, but the dialogue flows smoothly and the jokes are clever and aplenty.  I had more laugh out loud moments at Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, than I’ve had at any animated movie in a long time.

This was the best animated feature we’ve seen since Wreck-It Ralph, which was released in November of 2012.  We’ve seen a slew of forgettable kids movies since then.  Like Ross, I wasn’t a fan of the first installment of this series either, but the sequel was awesome!  The puns were so bloody brilliant I found myself wishing that I had come up with them myself.  We had fun whispering our own bastardizations of the animal, food hybrids before the film identified them.  One of our favorite characters was Barry, a live strawberry that Sam Sparks smuggles out of one of the sketchy labs they encounter.  This adorable little fruity dude, has some of the most memorable lines and an addictive catch phrase.  When he first meets Flint he keeps looking at him and uttering, “En woo.”  All three of us had some good laughs and it’s always a good sign when Ethan wants to go see a movie again.  The storyline was also well done, incorporating the ground work laid by the first movie while heading in a new, exciting direction with the plot of the second.  It reminded me of the flawless transition that was achieved with the classic Toy Story trilogy.  I found the overall moral of the story great too.  The lesson that Flint had to learn was to appreciate and recognize his real friends.  His loyal brood accompanies him to the island and he starts to take their friendship for granted.

I love Bill Hader, he stole the show at the James Franco Roast we watched on Comedy Central recently.  He enjoys doing these voice characters, in addition to reprising his Flint Lockwood role, he’s had parts in Ice Age, Monsters University and Turbo.  It is Flint’s ambition, awkward genius and eventual growth that is at the center of Meatballs 2.  I’m not sure where I’d rank it among my all-time animated favorites, but most definitely would recommend you see it in the theater or when it reaches DVD.  So many memorable characters, Maria mentioned the talking strawberry Barry; look for a scene where Barry is interpreting Flint’s speech for the other “foodimals”.  Hilarious.  I also enjoy Flint’s dad Tim played by James Caan.  He has Eugene Levy-like eyebrows, and has his own adventure with some warrior pickles who share his love for sardines.  That last line is something isn’t it?  So is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, a very pleasant surprise. 

I most certainly suggest catching this one in theaters.  We skipped the 3-D, which didn’t take anything away from how great it was.  I doubt it will be taking best animated feature of the year home (lots more of this genre to come during the holidays!), but the story is uplifting, heartwarming and seriously funny.  I believe adults will enjoy this one just as much as the kids!

 

Ross’ Rating: 4 out of 5 Gummy Bears.

Maria’s Rating: 4.5 Gummies.

  

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Movie Review: Planes

Published August 20, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring the Voices of:  Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Terri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Priyanka Chopra, John Cleese, Cedric the Entertainer, Carlos Alazraqui, Roger Craig Smith, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, Sinbad, Brent Musburger.

Rated: PG.  Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes.

I was shocked.  Not by the formulaic plot.  Or the predictable twists.  What was shocking was that even with all these flaws, I still enjoyed the movie somehow.  I entered the theatre with the lowest expectations possible.  Mostly because I knew from previews and pre-release press that Planes was going to be a Cars/Turbo hybrid.  Crop dusting plane wants to race around the World; crop duster qualifies due to glitch; blah blah blah.  It’s difficult to get hyped up for the same crap all the time in these kids movies.  Every storyline is about some type of underdog with big dreams.  Believe me, I’m all about encouraging kids to achieve great things, but aren’t there plenty of other life lessons we can start portraying on screen.  Anything original that doesn’t involve racing?  Maybe a story about how hard work results in success or how being kind and generous is rewarding.  There has to be some new subject matter we haven’t yet tapped into.

I realize lately we’ve become somewhat of a broken record when it comes to the lack of originality in movies, and that Planes is another in the line was certainly no surprise.  Maria has hit it on the head with her assessment of Planes as a cross between Cars and Turbo.  Slow snail gets fast, wins Indy 500.  Underestimated crop duster……..yeah, okay, got it.  Dusty’s (Cook) sidekick Chug (Garrett) = Mater.  Broken down mentor Skipper (Keach) is Doc Hudson.  It’s especially distressing to me because I have been saying for ages that the animated features, as a whole, are far superior offerings than mainstream Hollywood.  Now, it seems, they’ve finally decided to sacrifice quality for money grabbing and that is truly a shame.  I also liked Planes better than Turbo, but I’m definitely not nutting over it.  Check out that voice cast!  They deserve better.  I really hope the studios get back to serving us the quality we’ve come to know, and stop taking advantage of our kids and the parents. We deserve better too.

Going to the movies is an expensive venture, which is the main reason we deserve better.  We skipped the 3-D this time, because quite honestly, we haven’t been impressed by the use of the effect on screen.  And it’s an extra 3 or 4 bucks per ticket!  The only movie I have seen that truly wowed me was Jackass 3-D.  Now that was well worth the extra cash because they used the effect to its potential.  Shooting things out into the crowd and dusting us with faux confetti; that’s what going to a 3-D movie should be like.  I want to be grabbing and dodging things.  Keep that in mind, Hollywood.  Planes had some indescribable charm.  And I enjoyed the manner with which they executed the race.  There were more laughs and clever antics than Turbo, but it fell short of its predecessor, Cars.  Needless to say, this latest kids flick was mediocre.  I won’t be racing out to grab it off shelves.

Ethan enjoyed the movie, that’s all that matters really.  Though I’m sure even he would admit it’s not going on his all time favorites list.  We didn’t go 3-D, that was a plus, waste of money.  I’m going to make two prediction: 3-D offerings will decrease significantly, soon.  And, sometime in the future, you’ll see a Cars/Planes release.  Hopefully they’ll come up with a script worthy of the actors and the audience. 

Maria’s Rating:  2.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating:  2.75 Gummies. 

 

Movie Review: Epic

Published May 28, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring the voices of:  Colin Farrell, Beyoncé, Josh Hutcherson, Aziz Ansari, Amanda Seyfried, Chris O’Dowd, Pitbull, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler and Christoph Waltz.

Rated: PG.  Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 42 minutes.

It’s been a while since a kids movie has graced the big screen, so we decided to bring our boy (age 9) with us for a peek at Epic.  And although it sported the usual makings of children’s fare, I genuinely enjoyed it.  We see so many of these movies that it’s hard not to dwell on the formulaic plot lines and clever double entendre.  But occasionally you can lose yourself in one and overlook the commonality to discover something fresh about it.  Epic has a very creative storyline with a basic, but important, lesson for viewers.  It also has some decent laughs that appeal to both young and old.  I have to give a film credit if it induces Ethan to poke either Ross or myself with the ‘Wow, that was funny…did you guys think that was funny?’ routine.  And if he recites any of the lines on the car ride home, that’s usually a sure fire sign that the jokes were pretty good.  Both of these applied in this case.  The plot centers around a hidden World that exists in the forest.  The life of the forest is comprised of flowers, trees, leaves, insects and tiny people, including a powerful Queen.  Queen Tara (voiced by Beyoncé) is graceful and has a special power that brings life wherever she desires.  She makes the flowers bloom, revitalizes dead plants and unites her people to the cause of keeping the forest vibrant, but most importantly alive.  Her nemesis is a scary looking miniature named Mandrake (voiced by Waltz), donning a rat carcass cloak and wooden staff.  His only passion is killing the forest and spreading the gray, haggard designs of his World throughout the lush greenery the Queen has sustained.  His plan is to kill Queen Tara and destroy all that she and her people represent.  It is a classic battle of good vs. evil, but fate comes into play as a regular human teenage girl finds herself right in the middle.

I’ve talked about him in our review of Django Unchained, so some of you probably know that I LOVE Christoph Waltz.  He’s won two Oscars for good reason, and in Epic, just with his voice he’s the star of the show.  One of the great bad guys of all time in Inglorious Basterds, his Mandrake is one evil, heartless dude.  And really, doesn’t the bad guy oftentimes make the movie?  Anyway, M.K. (Seyfried) is a teenage girl visiting her father Bomba (Sudeikis) who we discover has lost everything – job, wife, kid etc. because of his obsession with finding proof of the little people in the forest.  M.K. indeed ends up in the middle of the battle, and when the Queen gets mortally wounded, M.K. is magically shrunken and entrusted with an item that is paramount to the forests’ survival.  She soon meets Nod (Hutcherson , who is suddenly in everything), an irresponsible youth/warrior/love interest; and Ronin (Farrell) the leader of the Queen’s Guard who is steadfast, true, “secretly” in love with the Queen, disappointed in Nod AND looks exactly like our neighbor’s son Connor.  M.K. also has help from the snail Grub (O’Dowd) and the slug Mub (Ansari) who has most of the movies’ funniest lines.  Our group of heroes must fend off the relentless Mandrake, who needs to make everything dead and grey, just because.  The action is fast paced, entertaining, funny and sometimes a little scary.  Just what the creators wanted.     

Waltz just commands the screen in anything he’s in.  His voice is mesmerizing, his gestures are captivating and his talent is indisputable.  His presence is still felt through the animated character he is portraying.  That’s just brilliant casting to have his cold, distinct voice in contrast to Beyoncé’s warm, mellifluous tone.  Ronin really does have an uncanny resemblance to our neighbor’s little boy – Ross nailed that.  Because we see so many of these animated movies it’s easy to take the animation for granted, but I am utterly impressed by what they can do these days.  Being a child of the ’90’s Disney era, I didn’t know that one day animation would blow that stuff out of the water.  These days, the animated people really resemble people!  Not to mention the settings.  We were at home skimming through the channels and we stopped on Brave (which we have reviewed – see Archives – July 2012) for a brief second.  Even at home the visuals were spectacular and the animation was jaw dropping.  I can’t wait to see what they do next!

I agree the animation of today is spectacular (even with the 3D money grabs).  It’s so consistently good, it’s easy to take it for granted.  What is equally impressive is the ability of these studios: Disney, Pixar, Blue Sky et al, to keep churning out such enjoyable and educational stories.  The good far outweighs the bad or mediocre.  So when you come across a movie like Escape From Planet Earth for example, which wasn’t THAT bad, but is obviously inferior; it seems worse than it is.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think they are reinventing the wheel with these movies, but they do make them as enticing to grown-ups as to the kids.  They fill them with life lessons without ramming them down your throat, and they make you want to see them again, which is no easy task.  Epic is another in a long line of worthy efforts.  Absolutely recommended for you, and sure take the kids along if you want.  One final note; Maria and I love to play the game of “name the voice behind the character”, and we’re usually pretty good at it.  Ethan has taken to playing with us recently and he nailed Pitbull as Bufo, a toad-like creature.  I was only average with Colin Farrell and Chris O’Dowd, easy ones.  Maria hit all the rest, including an interesting turn by Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler as Nim Galuu, a caterpillar of sorts.  This is a fun game, you should try it.  Occasionally, we get stumped and have to wait around to see the credits, for the inevitable “Oh that was so and so!” moment.  Yet another reason to sing the praises of the superior genre of animated features!

Maria’s rating: 4 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ rating: 3.75 Gummies.

Movie Review: Rise Of The Guardians

Published November 30, 2012 by mrsrag

Starring the voices of: Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Isla Fisher.

Rated: PG.  Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes.

We just recently reviewed Life of Pi and I mentioned that my boy Ethan didn’t really want to see it, but went with us anyway because he’s a good sport (he ended up liking it more than we did I think).  At any rate quid pro quo was in effect, so we took him to Rise of the Guardians, and Maria and I got the best part of the bargain.  Pi was okay, Guardians was better.  A magical story that centers around Jack Frost (Pine), who is portrayed as a teenage boy who “wakes up” one day 300 years ago out of a frozen pond as Jack Frost.  He only knows who he is because the Man in the Moon “told” him so, and he has no memories at all.  Flash forward to present day, and at the North Pole, Santa Claus (as you’ve never seen him before and voiced by the unrecognizable Baldwin) gets an April visit from the ominous and long missing Pitch Black (Law) AKA The Boogeyman.  Pitch is threatening children everywhere, so Santa has to summon the rest of the guardians of children; The Sandman (who doesn’t speak), the Tooth Fairy (Fisher), and the Easter Bunny (Jackman, and again a version like you’ve never seen).  While they’re deciding what to do, The Man in the Moon (who is just a big full moon that doesn’t speak but communicates just fine to our heroes and seems somewhat “in charge”) informs the group that they will have and need, a new guardian, Jack Frost.  They all know Jack and find him an odd choice, as does Jack for that matter.

Alec Baldwin!?  I would have never guessed that in a million years.  I had thought the Boogeyman was voiced by Paul Bettany…wrong again.  And we’re usually so good at putting names to voices in these animated films.  Ross is certainly correct in saying that you’ve never seen this clan of childhood legends like this before.  They are all these badass versions of themselves armed with serious weapons and supernatural powers to better guard the children of Earth.  And these powers become quite useful as they find themselves up against Pitch and an army of nightmares.  The nightmares are children’s sweet dreams that the Sandman has given them, but Pitch has manipulated them into frightening and fearsome dark horses.  The visuals and effects of this movie were quite stunning, but the thing I found most impressive about this film was how far they pushed the envelope.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a children’s movie approach such a dark and scary subject with such vigor.  And it’s no wonder with Guillermo del Toro’s fingerprints all over this project.

I agree honey, maybe the only other person out there with a more recognizable style is Tim Burton, but Guardians has a del Toro look that is uniquely his and unmistakeable.   I’m not a super big fan of his, but “Pan’s Labrynth” was an awesome movie and the visuals there were certainly an influence here.  And as with that film, the darkness is trumped by purity, goodness and faith.  This movie is original, innovative, daring, sinister and touching.  It’s really not your standard Christmas release, the movie takes place at Easter time?  But the messages are clear and driven home with authority.  Fighting, when necessary, for what is right.  Having hope when all seems lost and never giving up.  Redemption.  The bottom line is, it boils down to a fairly basic “naughty” versus “nice” story, but I don’t see anything wrong with that, and who do you think wins?  A final note, one of my favorite characters in the movie doesn’t have any lines.  The Sandman is a central figure to the story, and simply through facial expressions, symbols and various gesticulations; he exudes kindness, playfullness and strength.  Rise of the Guardians, it’s not “It’s A Wonderful Life” (my personal Christmas favorite, “Merry Christmas Bedford Falls!”), but I think like most really good movies it will age very well. 

I sincerely enjoyed this tale and I truly appreciate the values it embodies; wishes, dreams and the wonder that surrounds childhood.  In a World where cynicism is the new fad, it’s comforting to still have something pure and idealistic to share with the children in our lives.  Obviously, as adults we know that Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Sandman, the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost and the Boogeyman don’t exist.  But what they stand for and represent are very real.  And in time as we get older, we realize that even though these iconic figures aren’t alive, we can adopt their values and share them with our family and friends at festive times of the year.  I do have one complaint regarding all children’s films that I have recently viewed.  What happened to the catchy and spectacular songs!?  I grew up during the era of Disney’s Aladdin, Beauty & the Beast, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King.  I still know every word to most of the songs featured in each of these films.  In fact, during Thanksgiving my best friend and I had a Disney sing-a-long for hours, playing all our favorites from “Little Town” (Beauty & the Beast), “A Whole New World” (Aladdin) and “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” (The Lion King).  Etc., etc., etc.!  Please bring back the catchy and wholesome tunes, I miss the music.  Guardians is a great film to bring your kids to or just something to get you into the holiday spirit, which I can attest is sometimes a challenge.  Especially when you find holiday music heinous, as I certainly do.  It just about makes Wal-Mart, which is borderline intolerable without “Deck the Halls”, that much more unfavorable.  Happy holidays to you and yours…just abstain from carolling outside my home.

Ross’ Rating: 4.25 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummies.

Movie Review: Hotel Transylvania

Published October 2, 2012 by mrsrag

Starring the voices of: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, David Spade, CeeLo Green.

Rtaed PG.  Animated.  Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes.

Today was my son Ethan’s birthday, he’s 9, and even though he saw it already he was nice enough to agree to go again with Maria and I because we really wanted to see it.  He’s an awesome boy my Ethan.  He told us ahead of time it was a great movie, and he was spot on.  Hotel Transylvania was a joy from start to finish.  Count Dracula (Sandler) opens a hotel for monsters only, no humans allowed.  Humans in his view, only want to kill monsters, and he desperately wants to keep his daughter Mavis (Gomez) safe.  Dracula is a stereotypical protective single father, and he has kept Mavis smotheringly safe for over a century.  On her 118th birthday he throws her a huge party, and everyone shows up.  Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, assorted zombies, The Blob, The Werewolf,  Bigfoot etc.  Everything is going according to control freak Dracula’s plan, until the clueless, kind-hearted, surfer dude, human Jonathan (Samberg) stumbles into Hotel Transylvania.  Then everything gets turned upside down and the movie gets even better.

Jonathan literally breathes some life into the hotel of the undead, which could use some breath.  Sandler and his crew of boogeymen have become so accustomed to residing in the shadows that they’ve lost some lust for action along the way, but it doesn’t take long before they loosen up and start enjoying themselves.  Initially everyone takes a liking to the new guest, except for the Count.  Eventually, he can no longer resist Jonathan’s charms, especially when he sees how happy his daughter is around the human boy.  The film had a wonderful plot and many parenting tips on letting children experience life for themselves and learn from their own mistakes.  Hotel Transylvania took a fresh look at a theme we’ve seen displayed in many films, but at a relevant time.  Vampires have seen a huge upswing in popularity following the success of Twilight, True Blood and Vampire Diaries – just to name a few.  It’s refreshing to see a playful and humorous take of the undead in a kids movie and I love hearing a guy like Buscemi as Wayne The Werewolf dad, who I see every Sunday playing Nucky Thompson (Boardwalk Empire), in this type of role.

Couldn’t agree with you more honey, some truly wonderful messages for the kids in this movie, and they’re not rammed down their throats.  The voice actors are all fantastic and the story, though not anything near unpredictable, is heart-warming and appropriate for kids of all ages (which is a cool feat with all the monsters about).  The scariest moment in the movie for me, was when Ethan asked if he could go to the bathroom by himself.  Obviously, I know he could make it there and back alone, but like the over protective Dracula, I just couldn’t do it.  We compromised and I walked to the end of the hall and watched him go the rest of the way.  Good thing too, because he ran right by the bathroom heading toward the movies on the opposite side.  I sceamed “Ethan”, he turned back and looked at me while circling to run into the Ladie’s room.  Another scream from me, and I eventually had to go all the way down to guide him anyway.  He still needs his Pop, that’s not such a bad thing.  We made our way back to our seats, Maria and our popcorn, and enjoyed the end of the entertaining and sweet Hotel Transylvania.

I was hoping Ross would let Ethan go by himself, but after hearing about his oblivious ventures down the hall, I was glad he had his dad following.  Life imitating art.  Sure the plot of Hotel Transylvania is predictable, but done with such clever flair.  Something about this movie made a lasting impression and had me cracking up for hours later.  It’s one of the few that I’ll be looking forward to viewing again, and I’m sure my companions feel the same way.

Ross’ Rating: 4 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4 Gummies.

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.