It's not like the narrative didn't contain an interesting premise, that which follows a socially awkward boy named Norman, who has the uncanny ability to talk to the dead. Norman is an immediately sympathetic figure because nobody believes in his special ability and the small town society he lives in socially and emotionally rejects him due to this, especially his parents. However, as the story picks up things become significantly less interesting (Norman's ability never ends up having any significant bearing on the plot).
The two biggest problems stem from two sources: the characters and tone. The characters are in short: boring and painfully one-dimensional. Even Norman himself goes underdeveloped, almost as if the script was way more interested in giving screen time to the supporting cast. Speaking of the supporting characters, most of them are forgettable archetypes (the fat geek kid, the jock bully, the blond girl) that mostly exist to tell jokes and nothing else. This leads to the next crippling prevalent issue, a good majority of the humor in this film fall completely flat due to inept comedic timing or being lame cliché jokes that have been used in so many other past films.
The whole affair also feels tonally confused, with the horror and family film elements not nearly as well balanced as they were in "Coraline". The main threat in this film consists of resurrected Puritan zombies and they never end up coming off as a foreboding threat. It's as if the writer's were more interesting in the visual gag possibilities of the zombies rather than establishing them as a credible threat (Heck, it seemed like even without Norman the zombies would have been easily defeated by the town's people). On one end, kids may get a kick at some of the jokes but meanwhile adults will most likely be bored with the overly simplistic drawn-out narrative and half-baked horror elements.
Once again, it's not like the film was completely unsalvageable. There is a third-act plot twist that is actually legitimately heart-breaking and leads to by far the best scene in the entire movie (at least the most emotionally charged section that was thankfully devoid of forced jokes). It also leads to an admirable life lesson about accepting others and dashes of slightly daring social commentary (at least, for a kids film) regarding society's treatment of outsiders. It's just a shame that the sequence came so late into the film because it only served as a reminder for it's wasted potential.
In the end, "Paranorman" serves as an example of a good idea that was terribly executed. Great animation and an interesting premise are buried six feet under a crappy narrative, awful pacing, poorly written humor, and jarring tonal inconsistencies.
Good animated movie! This was a rather surprising movie. It's unlike any other modern animated movie and picks a new sort of approach, that should work entertaining for both adults and kids. Overall, the voice acting is great, the animation is superb as always, and the 3D remarkably works well. I was expecting a great movie, and I got it with this film. It may be a little too scary for kids under the age of 10, but everyone else should have a blast. I hope this film does well, and I can't wait to see what Focus Feature's next big animated project will be.
In the town of Blithe Hollow, Norman Babcock is a boy who can speak to the dead, but no one besides his eccentric new friend, Neil, believes his ability is real. One day, Norman's estranged eccentric uncle tells him of an important annual ritual he must take up to protect the town from a curse cast by a witch it condemned centuries ago. Eventually, Norman decides to cooperate, but things don't go according to plan. Now, a magic storm of the witch threatens Blithe Hollow as the accursed dead rise. Together with unexpected new companions, Norman struggles to save his town, only to discover the horrific truth of the curse. With that insight, Norman must resolve the crisis for good as only he can.
"It's all fun and games until someone raises the dead."
ParaNorman is a fantastic film filled with great animation. There's some great homages being paid here as well throughout. From Halloween to Night of the Dead, a number of great horror films have their hands all over this. The film is extremely fun, but also I would have a hard time showing it to my kids, if I had some. These children movies these days are getting more and more real world. Some of the things said in this movie truly shocked me when I think about the target audience. Still, for me as a childless adult; I loved it.
Norman is a odd young boy. While most kids are running around with their friends, Norman's only friends seem to be... well, um... dead. Nobody believes that Norman can actually speak to the dead and most of the kids at school just pick on him and call him names. Even his family has had enough of him. One day his uncle(who can see ghosts too) dies, and his spirit comes to Norman telling him that he must read a book to the witches grave to stop the curse from happening. Well, he doesn't get there in time and now the dead are the living dead.
The setting for the film is in a Massachusetts town that is supposed to resemble that of Salem, Massachusetts. The town is built on the history of a witch that was killed many years ago, and now wakes up once a year to fulfill her curse, if not read to from the book. The setting works really well and the movie does have a lot of great, mild horror elements at work, that makes it a very rewarding movie for horror buffs. It's a lot like Frankenweenie in those regards.
ParaNorman is definitely a worthwhile film and one of the better "scary" family movies to come out in recent memory. Although, if you plan on watching it with the kids, I suggest watching it before you do because there may be some material that you wouldn't want your kids watching or listening to. I would also consider this a must watch for horror buffs along with Frankenweenie because seeing all these horror elements and homages done in a more mild way is just a lot of fun.
Is it stupid to say a "kid's film" is too heavy-handed with its message? That would be my only complaint of 'ParaNorman'. A little more subtlety would not have been missed, and I do only mean a little more.
Oh, and 'Frankenweenie' has a lot to learn from this. The way that thing fell apart made me marvel this further.
But no this isn't, its completely Burton free and what's more its pretty darn good. Visuals up first of course, what can I say, they look flippin great!. A blend of clay-mation with a hint of CGI in places but in that nice old school way which hasn't been made deliberately perfect. Characters, buildings, backgrounds etc...are not created exactly symmetrical but with a slightly twisted and dare I say...Tim Burton-ish approach (can't get around saying that sorry). Kooky is a good description word here.
The colour palette is also quite nice and offers a bold yet shaded range giving off a cozy comicbook feel. Animation wise its really slick too, smoother than other well known clay-mation films and with great depth in backdrops and vista's, loved the evil looking sky towards the end.
The whole zombie thing is cool and for some reason made me think of 'Thriller', I guess because this film actually has some quite semi scary moments. Usual mix of hocus pocus, curses and regular 'kids film type characters' but big close ups on undead faces, screaming howling zombies, zombie limbs flying off, evil witch forces and the odd small jumpy moment make this more for the older teen viewer. Visuals will entice the kids but the content will be appreciated more by slightly older kids/teens.
The story does turns out to be quite sweet in the end I might add, the finale is quite moving and in a way detracts from what has gone before really. Almost a total swing in mood from horror comedy to nice fairytale bookend.
Lots of nice touches throughout, I really liked how Norman is the only person who can see ghosts around the town. Nothing original there but a nice spooky 'Beetlejuice' 'The Frighteners' flavour, wish we had seen much more of that.
I knew I would like this as the whole concept is right up my alley and I'm sure anyone who enjoyed films like 'Nightmare Before Christmas' 'Corpse Bride' 'Monster House' etc...will enjoy this. Not overly original and characters aren't overly inspired but a fun haunted little ride with some cute lines of comedy and lovely visuals, just wish the ending wasn't so weepy.
Chris Butler, who here make his directing and screenwriting debut with the somewhat more experienced Sam Fell (Flushed Away, The Tale of Desperaux), delivers a visually goluptious, if uneven yarn, that takes the rather ancient stop-motion technique (the first creation of its kind came already in 1897) and hones it to its ideal condition. Not least as it has applied a set of cutting-edge 3D printers to generate faces for its characters.
For all the confectionary to the eyes, however, the film is marred by its unbalanced tempo and somewhat bromidic structure. I welcome all the fun references to old horror favourites like Friday the 13th and Halloween, but the narrative hobbles too much, at the same time as many of the characters seem a little too stereotypical and normative to fully engage. Norman's bimbo of a sister is one such case - the dim-witted muscle package Mitch, another.
The voice-acting, however, is consistently on top, with wholehearted efforts by names like Christopher "McLovin" Mintz-Plasse, John Goodman and Bernard Hill. The ensemble is also gilt-edged by fresh talents in the genre in the form of Casey Affleck and Anna Kendrick. Humor-wise it's very hit-and-miss; it never really amounts to more than a couple of chuckles and it feels like the script would have done better with hiring in a writer of more comical aptitude. Not that Butler's dialogues don't fill their function, but they lack a certain geist, to lift it beyond banality.
As an amusing fun-for-the-moment escapade, it works more than well though. The macabre theme, which also has a great deal to say about people's ignorance and odium to remove their blinders, is neatly interweaved with the colorful animations, which are of prime and first-rate caliber. The absence of blood may perhaps be lame to those who hankered for an animated Braindead, but as a G-rated family feature it's adequately scary and fits well with the given format. Then again - you may not want to retell it as a bedtime story to kids below the age of 6. Just a tip for all the parents out there who value their beauty sleep.
Nate's Grade: B