If you’re unfamiliar, ParaNorman is the story of 11yr old Norman Babcock, a boy with the ability to see and talk with the dead. Norman takes to his ability with relative ease, and doesn’t appear to keep it a secret from anyone. A fact that has made him an outcast in the town of Blithe Hollow and at home. His father would prefer to be “normal”, his sister would prefer he stop being an embarrassment, his mother would prefer that everyone got along, and his dead grandmother would prefer Norman just be happy. His gift, however, appears to run in the family, as his uncle suffers from the same gift and bears a similar reputation. But what Norman doesn’t know could put the entire town in jeopardy. As the town approaches the next anniversary of the death of Agatha Prenderghast, an accused witch who, in death, has cursed the seven people who judged and killed her. Can Norman save the day?
I’ve seen three 3D films since the technology made its big splash – Tron: Legacy, Marvel’s The Avengers, and now ParaNorman. In my previous experience, the 3D did very little to enhance the experience and the images appeared darker than normal. Granted, the 3D added extra depth to scenes in Legacy and Avengers, the fast action made anything not explicitly CGI very blurry. ParaNorman felt built for the 3D experience – the colors popped, the stop-motion appeared solid, yet flexible (instead of its typical stiffness), and the 3D looked organic. This is the first time that I would actually recommend 3D as the preferred version for seeing the movie.
What I enjoyed most about this movie is how seriously it took itself, but at the same time was silly as hell. Like most kids movies, it has a message and a moral: don’t be a bully. How they accomplish this, though, is by twisting expectations. Yes, Norman’s family will eventually rally behind him. Yes, Norman will be the hero of the film. Yes, Norman will save the town. But how he does it is the most inventive thing.
For one, I loved that the zombies weren’t the traditional bad guys. In death, they are being punished for the choices they made while alive. Roaming the town, they are terrified of the sights and sounds emanating from every shop, bar, and business in Blithe Hollow. So that spins the typical notion of zombies, only to do a complete 180 when the townspeople become the aggressors and try to kill the zombies. Having Norman as a the zombie savior 1) is a clever twist and 2) having them not be totally innocent is ingenious. Plus, it was incredibly refreshing to have the “bad guy” be defeated by conversation instead of a fight.
I give this one 4 of 5. It’s highly entertaining (for multiple age audiences), doesn’t frighten at its worst, and doesn’t go too goofy. The danger may not be real, but you do believe that they think it is. Not to mention the amazing stop-motion technology. It’s fun more for the whole family.
I’d meant to post this over the weekend, but I had one of those rare weekends when I could spend 1-1 time with Wifey. I seized the day(s) while we have them since the internship is going well and keeping me quite busy. Not sure if I’ll have a new review up at the end of this week, so I’ll make it up to you for Labor Day Weekend.