While the premise of ParaNorman had sounded interesting when I first saw previews of this film a couple years ago, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see it. It had originally seemed like some sort of trite Nickelodeon-type fare. I was wrong.
Norman can see dead people. He talks to them daily, on the way to school and anywhere else. His town has ghosts wandering all over the place. Everyone else thinks he’s crazy, and they practically treat him as an outcast. Even his father and sister get in on the rudeness toward him. The only one who seems to understand (or at least try to understand him) and support a bit is his mom. Oh, and his grandma. Who is dead, and still hanging out in his living room.
His crazy uncle stops him on the way home, blathering on about some 300-year-old witch’s curse and how Norman was the only one who could stop it. He then promptly dies before he can tell Norman exactly what he’s supposed to do about things.
The stop-motion animation is very stylized, with all of the characters having something about them which is just ever-so-slightly off-kilter. The settings are also creepy but normal. Unless you’ve seen it, it’s hard to explain. The director worked on one of my favorite films, Coraline, so perhaps that experience warped him a little. In a good way.
The music was mostly forgettable (I can’t even think of one song from it, and I only finished it a few minutes before writing this). The plot and pacing, while eventually coming together, tended to wander a bit, giving you a bit of information here and a little more there, but doing little to tie things together in a neat little package.
The horror aspects of the film, involving zombies and one really angry witch, weren’t terribly scary for me, but I suspect a younger audience might be disturbed by them (especially the parts involving the witch). Many of those scary bits were played for the humor, almost as if being parodied a bit. The humorous aspects definitely help with reducing the frightening themes. However, this would definitely be a film where you watch it first and determine if your little precious one is able to handle the scary imagery without keeping you up all night due to nightmares.
Even with the drawbacks, I still enjoyed ParaNorman quite a bit. The quirky humor and interesting characters kept me going even when the narrative wandered in strange roads. It’s definitely worth a watch, especially if you liked Coraline.
Release Date: August 17, 2012 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (one scene of random pill-taking)
Language: 1 (one instance of deity, minor expletives)
Sexuality: 1 (mild innuendo)
Violence: 2 (mostly non-graphic zombie attacks, angry mobs, bullying)