ParaNorman (2012) Movie Review

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ParaNorman (2012) Movie Image

Packaged and marketed as a kid’s movie, “ParaNorman”, the new stop-motion animated offering from Laika—the folks behind “Coraline”—is everything you want out of this kind of movie. This is a horror movie aimed at children, one that is also funny, touching, and, most importantly, full of legitimate frights. Death—in the form of ghosts, zombies, corpses, and the potential for characters to die—is an ever-present specter. At every turn there’s a realistic chance that happily-ever-after might not happen. Scares blend with a strange gallows humor to create a fantastic movie that will get you as pumped up as it gets your kids. Horror fans will love this, as there are copious nods to the genre, including, but not limited to “Halloween”, “Friday the 13th”, and Romero’s “Dead” trilogy.

One of the rarest, most appreciated things about “ParaNorman” is that it doesn’t talk down to the intended audience. Nothing pissed me off more as a kid than when a movie totally insulted my intelligence; the ones that let the kids go along, never in any real danger, and have the adults swoop in at the last moment to save the day. Kids want to be heroes, too, and that’s nothing more than a cop out. “ParaNorman” doesn’t play those games, and it gives the gives the young characters credit for being smart, capable, stronger than grown ups expect them to be, and remarkably intuitive. This is their day. They’re the ones taking all the risks, and the outcome rests solely on their diminutive shoulders.

ParaNorman (2012) Movie Image

Norman Babcock (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a weird kid. Obsessed with schlocky horror—he has a zombie toothbrush and pair of undead slippers—he’s an outcast, a loner, the kid that all the other kids pick on and call freak. To make matters worse, he sees and talks to the dead. Grandma’s ghost (Elaine Stritch) lives on the couch in the living room. Because of his ability, his parents fear him, and talk about him as if he isn’t in the room with them. You feel for this kid. He just wants to be left alone, but when a witch’s curse threatens his small New England town with a zombie invasion, Norman is the only one who can stop it. If only he can get anyone besides his chubby, spastic, IBS-riddled friend Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) to believe him.

“ParaNorman” isn’t a simple break-the-curse, slay-the-zombies yarn. The story is much more complex than that. At the same time that this is very much a horror film, the creators play around with genre tropes to make what begins as a familiar set up into a unique, fresh movie. At its core, “ParaNorman” is a parable about bullying, and breaking that vicious cycle. A spiral of intolerance, violence, cruelty, and misunderstanding spreads through generations, and is responsible for sorrow, regret, and an out of control town on the verge of chaos and self-destruction. Digging into the underlying causes, “ParaNorman” explores fear, understanding, and what is really frightening. Is it ghouls, ghosts, and the undead that truly terrify you, or an unchecked mob screaming for blood and vengeance?

ParaNorman (2012) Movie Image

The way they frame the topic of bullies and bullying is much more effective and engaging than the influx of melodramatic kids-picking-on-kids stories filling TV and movie screens. Not content to simply point out the problem, “ParaNorman” attempts to offer a solution and deal with the issue head on. First and foremost, however, this is a fantastic story, and though the underlying message is important, the film never stoops to heavy-handed preaching or oversimplification.

Neither a typical horror outing, nor average kids movie, “ParaNorman” is definitely a film you need to check out. This is a stunningly beautiful package, full of spooky, memorable imagery. The zombies are cartoonish, but also creepy and gross, and genuinely dark moments are accentuated by wonderfully eccentric wit and comedy that verges on morbid. After all, what other movies have you seen lately where a child wrestles a book out of the fingers of a dead man?

ParaNorman (2012) Movie Image

I’m going to go out on a limb and call “ParaNorman” the best animated movie of 2012, and say that it stands up there with “Goonies” for adventure movies aimed at kids. Adult themes of life, death, sex, sexuality, and more pop up, but like everything else in “ParaNorman”, they are handled with grace, and are so interwoven into the film that they’re a natural part of the tapestry.

Sam Fell (director)/Chris Butler (writer/director)
CAST: Kodi Smit-McPhee…Norman Babcock
Tucker Albrizzi…Neil
Anna Kendrick…Courtney
Casey Affleck…Mitch
Christopher Mintz-Plasse…Alvin


Buy ParaNorman on DVD

Author: Brent McKnight

Brent McKnight lives in Seattle with his dogs. He likes beards, movies where things explode, and overcast skies. His three favorite movies are "Rubin and Ed", "A Bittersweet Life", and "Out for Justice". He wishes his knees didn't hurt. On Twitter @BrentMMcKnight
  • http://twitter.com/Darrellyqi Darrellyqi

    Harry answered I’m surprised that some people can make $6487 in 4 weeks on the network. did you look this(Click on menu Home)

  • http://twitter.com/Darrellyqi Darrellyqi

    …..
    goo.gl/RRhcT

  • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

    DUDE!!! I am very glad to read such a glowing review! I am relaly looking forward to seeing this in theatres with my daughter and owning it at home for a “Coraline,” “ParaNorman” double feature!

    • http://twitter.com/BrentMMcKnight Brent McKnight

      Knowing what I know about your tastes, I think you’ll totally love ParaNorman. And it’s definitely worth seeing in the theaters. I’m not a huge fan of 3D, but this is an astonishingly beautiful film.

      • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

        Cannot wait!!!

  • kraven

    Agree. What a killer review. ParaNorman sounds like something right out of Neil Gamans The Graveyard Book (which would be cool if it was put to a movie). Saw Caroline and 9 on a double dvd pak and was totally mesmerized!

    • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

      HElL YEAH! Coraline was one of my first reviews here, and I loved “9” but it got no love. There was a website that was dedicated to backgrond info and even had the scientist’s journal. it was 9scientist.com i believe. I love the darkness of “Coraline” and was excited when I first heard about this flick. i can’t wait to take my daughter.

      • kraven

        really surprised 9 didn’t get a big hug. it was quite original. Next stop ParaNorman.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tin-Hoang/500047782 Tin Hoang

    Put it up there with Goonies? That’s a very very very high pedestal!

    • http://twitter.com/BrentMMcKnight Brent McKnight

      I liked it that much.

  • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

    100% Agree with this review after seeing it! Definitely was deeper and more complex than I thought it would be and the twist was great! I keep telling people that at it’s heart the film is about acceptance and perception and I will defintiely be getting this!