It’s always nice to be surprised by a movie. When I picked up ParaNorman, I expected a quality film (the reviews had been very positive plus it was from the people who made Coraline) but what I didn’t expect was how sophisticated the story would be.
Norman can see and talk to ghosts. He lives in Massachusetts in the fictional town of Blithe Hollow, which like most New England towns, has a past full of Puritans and persecution. The town celebrates it’s most well known historical event – the hanging of a witch and the so-called curse she put on the town. Now it’s up to Norman to stop the witch from causing the dead to rise.
But the story if far more than just a “walking dead for kids” tale. As we start to learn more about Norman and the town’s past, it transforms from a zombie flick to a story about bullying and how our reaction to that shapes who we are.
ParaNorman was overshadowed by other summer releases and I think many of us missed it’s theater run, even though it was well reviewed. But I think this is a movie that will gain a cult following among those who find it. It has a wide age-range appeal (though we were a bit concerned by some of the random sexual things – like Neil freeze-framing his mom’s aerobics videos, though I’m sure jokes like that will fly over young kid’s heads anyway.) and it is a movie the entire family can enjoy. It is much smarter and more satisfying than Frankenweenie, another stop-motion “scary” movie for kids.
And, yes, it is all stop-motion, an art form that I am glad has survived into the new century because it is so beautiful and fascinating and cannot be beat. It’s worth watching just for that.
Pick up ParaNorman on blu-ray. It is a gorgeous movie with lots of humor and heart and just enough horror to spook the kid in all of us.