Stop motion film from the makers of Coraline hits all the right beats.
August 18, 2012 3:05 pmTerry Yates
Reviewing a movie like ParaNorman is too easy, as it's the type of thing stuffed so far in my wheelhouse that I would love it even if the movie had flaws worth knocking it for. ParaNorman comes from Laika, the same stop motion animation company that brought us the superb Coraline in 2009. And yes, its a movie for children, but just like Coaraline a lot of the major themes of this movie deal with mature topics and are handled masterfully. Unlike the bulk of its peers ParaNorman doesn't talk down to its audience and trusts that they will be able to handle the plot without a lot of narrative hand holding.
ParaNorman tells the story of Norman Babcock, a boy that can talk to dead people. However, by the time the movie takes place, Norman has embraced this ability and there's not a lot of time devoted to it. But this doesn't do much for his popularity at school and he his teased and picked on by his fellow students for his weird ability. To make matters worse, his family isn't too keen on this power and believe Norman is taking after his Uncle Prenderghast, who also claims to able to talk to the dead.
It's from this crazy uncle that Norman learns of a witch's curse that haunts the town. Each year, someone must go to the witches grave and read a story to her before sundown...or something dire will occur. Of course, Norman fails to accomplish this task thanks to the school bully Alvin, and the seven cursed townsfolk rise from their graves and a dark storm of witch flavor transcends on Norman's town. Thinking the zombies are after them, Norman and Alvin run for their lives. Meanwhile, Norman's sister Courtney who's supposed to looking after Norman, enlists Neil and his brother Mitch to go get Norman out of the woods.
As we come to learn, it turns out the witch was a little girl named Agatha with an ability similar to Normans. This power frightens the puritan citizen of their day, who then have her executed, but ever before that she curses these seven people. The story that's supposed to be read is a stop gap to lull her back to sleep for another year, but this time Norman means to deal withe problem head on and rid the town of the witch's curse forever. After finding Agatha's grave and telling her a new story about how there are more good people in the world then bad, she finally sleeps for good and the day is saved.
ParaNorman is squarely in my wheelhouse and as such I found it to be perfectly entertaining, I do have to wonder how some of the darker themes of the film will resonate with children. It's not too often that a children's movie has a kid executed for being a witch in it, and although the execution is only implicitly noted, the film does show the town's judgment being handed down on a crying little girl. The film definitely owns its PG rating. But for those of who aren't kids and who love stop motion animation and a really good story with some genuinely interesting plot twists will most enjoy ParaNorman.
|FIND YOUR GEEK RATING||5.0|