Yesterday I went to see the new flick ParaNorman with my fiancee. I was quite excited because the movie had gotten a lot of buzz from the right people- including legendary writer Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline, the Sandman series, and that one really good episode of Doctor Who, among many other things. And let me preface this review by saying the movie was good. Really good. But I am not 10 years old. And neither are the critics that all loved it (87% on Rotten Tomatoes), so if you’re going to bring a young-one, perhaps see if this is for them first. All the same, the kids we saw it with seemed to love it as much as we did.
ParaNorman, for those not in the know, is a stop-motion animated flick about a young boy, Norman, who can talk to the dead. When his town is suddenly under attack by zombies, he’s the only one who can figure the mess out.
The movie utilizes a lot of fairly standard kids-movie tropes, such as the adults as uncomprehending idiots, teenagers as useless bags of hormones, etc. But in this film, at least, it has a purpose. Norman’s alienation in his town is a subject that is deeply explored by the film, which is rare in a movie designed for kids.
The writing was good- the jokes were generally multilayered and quite funny, with a lot of more ‘adult’ jokes being snuck in for the parents and older folks in the audience, while typical slapstick is sometimes employed to keep the kids happy. There’s a lot of visual gags (brand names, horror movie satire) in the background, so make sure you look closely to catch all of that.
Speaking of the visuals- they’re quite breathtaking. There’s something to be said for stop-motion animation, in that it sets the tone and feel for a movie like nothing else can. For me, it’s forever associated with the dark and quirky film The Nightmare Before Christmas, which was my first favourite film as a kid.
In this case, the only time it falls short is with some of the shots of the town. In one scene, Norman is walking to school, and the only things moving are in the foreground- the back is completely still. While this is obviously because stop-motion is a very difficult medium, it still is quite jarring when you notice it.
ParaNorman lacks the depth and psychological plumbing of Coraline, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It makes up for it with heart, intelligence, and humor.
I don’t provide meaningless number ratings for films, but I would definitely see ParaNorman again and and buy it on blu-ray when it comes out.