ParaNorman is a paranormal thriller about a boy named Norman (see what they did there?) set in the hopefully fictional town of Blithe Hollow. It is directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler, and it is shot in beautifully quirky stop-motion. Also, it took over a decade to make, so there’s that.
Fun fact (from Wikipedia): It is the first stop-motion movie to use a 3D color printer to create character faces.
That was fun, right?
ParaNorman was created, with love, over many years (one of the directors said it took 16 years to make while he was addressing the audience before the premiere, but I’m not sure if he was serious or resorting to the comic cushion of hyperbole) by Laika Studios and is distributed by Focus Features (US) and Universal Pictures (International).
I was invited to the ParaNorman World Premiere held at Universal Studios CityWalk in Hollywood and attended the screening with my oldest son (9). I didn’t take my youngest (6) as we were told that kids under eight should not attend due to the PG rating of the film. For the record, my 9-year-old was frightened at times, but I think my youngest would have been fine.[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zIjLA8NGLY[/youtube]
ParaNorman stars Kodi Smit-McPhee (he played “The Boy” in The Road) as Norman Babcock, a kid that is bullied and feared by the community (and to an extent his own family) due to the fact that he can communicate with the dead.
Norman is contacted by his uncle, Mr. Prenderghast (John Goodman), who has the same ability as his nephew. He explains that the celebrated history/marketing of their town (Puritan-esque killing of a young witch) is actually part of a terrible curse that involves the witch returning on her birthday to seek revenge on the community and that only Norman can stop it. Also, zombies.
From there Norman is joined by an unlikely band of heroes to save Blithe Hollow. Hilarity ensues.
I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but I will say that ParaNorman puts some great twists and fresh ideas on the genre of zombie movies, and, much like a decayed arm, pulls it off nicely.
Once Norman and his friends save the day (that’s too obvious to be a spoiler) we witness the townspeople, previously filled with ignorance and quick anger, grow in understanding, acceptance, and a handful of other morals to the story, but without being preachy about it.
ParaNorman is a highly enjoyable romp through the equally treacherous fields of pre-adolescence and zombies, and it is good (sometimes scary) fun for the whole family.
Notes for parents (spoilers): The film deals heavily with death, ghosts, witches, and zombies, and while most prove to be comical or misunderstood there is an initial tension and suspense that may prove uncomfortable for some children. The scenes with the witch, which we learn was a young girl put to death by the townspeople of her time, are very dark and intense before being resolved. Also, the people of Blithe Hollow (especially Norman’s dad) are idiots for a majority of the film. The movie earns its PG rating.
ParaNorman opens today in theaters everywhere.
I attended a complimentary screening (the World Premiere no less!) for the purpose of review. Opinions are my own.
Photo: Laika/Focus Features/Universal
Read more from Whit Honea at his site Honea Express and the popular group blog DadCentric. You can follow Whit on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).
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