Written by Phil Cerroni
By Matt Mungle
I am not a fan of animated films, so it takes a lot to grab my attention. I want odd characters, unique aspects, and a story line that is strong enough for adults but made for kids. In the new stop motion comedy Paranorman, most of those elements are present. Although not a perfect film, it is one that I stayed engaged with the entire time. Plus you can’t go wrong with zombies. They always seem to deliver some sort of excitement.
Middle-Schooler Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) just wants to be normal. He doesn’t like the idea that he can see ghosts and all the trouble that ability has brought him. His parents certainly don’t understand, and all the kids think he is a freak. As screenwriter Chris Butler puts it like this when talking about being different, “to a kid, zombies are less terrifying than the kids at school”. At that age we just want to not stand out. So when Norman has to save his town from a long standing curse, he can no longer hide in the shadows but face his fears, and zombies, head on.
This film works not only for the advanced look and expert attention to detail, but also for all the humor in the script. The characters are visually stimulating with outlandish attributes. It isn’t cartoonish but still has the feel of old Scooby Doo cartoons. The film makers walk that line perfectly. Though created for a PG audience the humor is geared in such a way that adults get a slice of the pie. There are references to classic horror films and some tongue in cheek moments that would be lost on the youngsters but get us right in the funny bone.
There is also a strong message in this film about tolerance and judging others. It isn’t heavy handed but is obvious enough that it may get kids to think about how they treat people who are different. The zombies are a worthy allegory as we are used to seeing them in a scary way. This film sort of gives us a twist and we get to see the frightening aspect of human nature through the eyes of the undead.
Paranorman is rated PG scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language. It is safe for those 11 and up. If your kid is easily frightened by ghostly images and walking skeletons then you might want to take these things into consideration. There is obviously a lot that deals with curses, witches, and the paranormal. The little kid sees ghosts. Hard to get around that.
One surprising element that is seldom seen in animated kid’s films is a very brief mention of one of the characters having an alternative lifestyle. Other than those thing fans of Monster House and Burton animated films will dig this for sure. I give the film 3.5 out of 5 missing limbs. The attention to detail and eccentric characters elevate this movie above the norm.
Review copyright 2012 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.