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“ParaNorman” – Review (POSITIVE)

August 26, 2012

Laika, the studio behind “Coraline”, have returned with another dark children’s tale. “ParaNorman” not only evokes the classic zombie movies of the 60’s/70’s, but it also manages to maintain honest truth in it’s storytelling form, by having the support of an important message kids can identify with; anti-bullying.

Screenwriter & co-director Chris Butler has crafted a film that resembles many of his childhood issues; not being able to fit in with school, being different, and being bullied. While the movie does tend to go off tangent temporarily, and it’s 3D not the most impressive thing, in the end it’s wholesome message is as strong as the colorful visuals the film shows off.

A small town comes under siege by the living dead, thanks to a dark curse put upon the townsfolk by a centuries old witch. When there’s nothing else they can do, and all seems to be running amok, who they gonna call? Only misunderstood local boy named Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Norman has the unwanted ability to speak with the dead. In addition to the zombies, he’ll have to take on ghosts, witches and, worst, of all, grown-ups, to save his town from the old curse. But this young ghost whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits the further he travels down the rabbit hole on one crazy night.

The moment the film begins, with the classic homage to classic feature presentation openers to old grindhouse films, I knew I was in for a treat. My animation-loving brother, Zack, was on the edge of his seat from beginning to end; being a CalArts student, this is his bread and butter. There are pleasant throwbacks to horror movies; “Night of the Living Dead”, “Halloween”, and “The Fog” are a few that come to mind. The animators of Laika truly have gifted artist who have the right amount of energy to make these kind of films look fascinating the way they are.

I have to say; I find poetic irony in the casting of McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) as the bully, Alvin that torments poor Norman. Perhaps it’s the fact that we’ve seen Mintz-Plasse typed cast as the dweeby loser that it’s almost fitting to find him in a role like this. As far as best supporting characters go around, each one has there moments of hilarity, but it’s the character Mitch (Casey Affleck), whose big reveal at the end will leave a lot of comical [and more than likely controversial] gasps, that was the moment in the film where you had to commend the filmmakers for taking ‘risks’ in a kids film. The character of Neil () may have been my least favorite character, he’s funny, but he’s the typical sidekick fat friend I’ve seen dozens of times before.

The movie does have a poignant message about bullying and how it’s never a bad thing for a kid to be different. The moral is to accept different, different is a positive element when you’re growing up, and it makes that person stronger in the end. The twist at the end of the film between the witch and Norman I think was justified enough for having the films point come across clear and understanding, without dumbing down the audience.

“ParaNorman” is without a doubt one of my favorite animated films to come out this year, trailing behind it is the competitive Pixar feature “Brave”. Come Oscar season, it’ll be interesting to see who gets more favor.

3D GRADE: B-

MOVIE GRADE: A-

OVERALL GRADE: A-

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