Every time another Tim Burton-esque stop-motion picture is released, I fear that it is going to be more along the lines of the forgettable Corpse Bride than those of The Nightmare Before Christmas. If any of you are plagued with the same complaint, fear not about ParaNorman; it’s better than it looks and much better than its peers.
I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m reviewing ParaNorman a week and a half late. The reason is simple: I adore this little film. With my time consumed by a more-than full-time job, reviewing theatrical releases on 101.5 FM The Eagle, and reviewing both Blu-rays and theatrical releases on High-Def Digest’s main site and their blog, The Bonus View, I find it hard to get Reel Place reviews written some weeks. In such cases, by the time I’m free, the hype is over and I end up letting one get away – but because ParaNorman deserves all the praise it can get, I’m finally getting around to reviewing it.
The best way that I’ve heard ParaNorman described was in a review that referred to it being like a kid’s movie of the ’80s. For some reason, parents today are hyper-sensitive to what they show to their children. Often times, they’re hesitant to show anything “scary” to their children. If you, like me, grew up watching movies like The Goonies and Gremlins, then you know that there’s no reason why the kids of today can’t watch this quality entertainment too. This is where ParaNorman falls in. Many of today’s protective parents may find ParaNorman too scary for kids, but I assure you that it’s not any more terrifying than the kids movies of the ’80s, the titles that many of us grew up watching.
The titular character of ParaNorman is a young boy who sees and interacts with ghosts. Like The Sixth Sense, some of the ghostly beings resemble the mutilated and disfigured appearances of their dead bodies. Yes, it’s creepy – but because Norman doesn’t negatively react to the apparitions, neither will children. Watching a feel kid not be affected by ghosts shows children that they don’t need to be affected by it either.
Norman lives in a town made famous by its unfair witch trials centuries ago. On the eve of the anniversary of the most famous witch trial of them all, Norman is made aware of a terrible curse that’s bound to come true and wreak havoc on the town if he doesn’t put his sixth sense to good use.
While the silly content of a kids movie featuring a hoard of zombies attacking a city is to be expected, what I didn’t expect was a well-told, well-directed and exceptionally well-made film. Not only is the story engaging and fun, but the filmmaking techniques used to bring it to life are brilliant. Shots and sequences typically impractical for kids flicks are present and the score by Jon Brion (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is Oscar worthy.
If you have children, give them the benefit of the doubt and take them to see this fun and frightening little flick. If you don’t have kids, go see it anyway. Through its entertaining style, it’s sure to please all audiences looking for a good time.
Photo credit: Focus Features