Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Jodelle Micah Ferland, John Goodman, Tempestt Bledsoe, Hannah Noyes and Ariel Winter
Chris Butler & Sam Fell
These past few years have been less than satisfactory for animated movies in general. It is as if the big studio (i.e Pixar) isn't able to produce a mindblowing animated feature, we somehow begin to see less in everything else as well. Its somewhat right because they have always set up quite a standard for the rest to follow. If we talk about 2012, the two of the best animated movies were stop-motion features that people weren't quite taken away with because this particular type of technique have always been treated badly by the masses. I mean both ParaNorman and Frankenweenie were the best, whether people agree with it or not. They deserved the recognition but hey, better award an average Pixar film than either of the two spectacular stop motion animated films right? Anyways, ParaNorman is the latest creation of the Laika studios and it was released in 3D. This horror comedy is something that a bit older kids would love and has so much to say about them. This is the story about a boy named Norman who is able to see and speak to the dead people. This very different ability of him makes him the joke of the town, he is often bullied and left out and he feels isolated from his own family as well. He has a friend as well, Neil who is an overweight and hence bullied himself as well. About their town, Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, there is a past that will soon haunt its people all over again. A witch was supposedly executed there 300 years ago and those who were involved in it died of a curse as well. There is a school play commemorating that incident in which Norman takes part as well. He has a strange vision during the rehearsal, his estranged uncle tells him to take that vision seriously. Later during the play, another vision leads him to create a scene in front of everyone and he is grounded by his parents. Norman has to find that special book which he has to read in a ritual before the sun goes down during that particular day. We soon see that a huge storm suddenly starts in the shape of the witch and the cursed dead people of the town arises from their graves as zombies and pursues the children, including Norman, his sister Courtney, Neil and his brother Mitch etc. So ParaNorman very easily switches the genres, enters the world of ghosts, withes and zombies and that magical horror that takes over the town soon ends up on a moral note for everyone.
ParaNorman does looks very odd at first but as soon as its finds its way and reveals what it is trying to be, the movie becomes a beautiful experience. Yes, it is very scary and features some of the most creepiest visuals i have seen since "Coraline". Its not truly about the fantasy world but more about human beings. The way the themes are related so effortlessly was the surprising factor for me. Norman, an odd looking guy who has this ability to see and talk with ghosts. Including his very own grandmother or any member of the town who has died. That leads him to encounter some really scary things. But the worst things is that he is always type casted, people specially other kids at school sees him as something different and is bullied. His own family doesn't seems to understand him as well which is even worse, for kids of his age to suffer the cold shoulder is devastating. That witch who was killed, was she any different from Norman? I don't think so. This is where the movie gets very interesting, how the hero of this movie sees so much similarities and realizes that he is no different at all. ParaNorman tells us to accept people around us exactly as they are. It doesn't matter if people are different, they are suppose to be different, not everything or everyone in this world is the same. What makes one different is you, not them. Look around yourself, you will find many people who are talked badly behind their back or treated in a bad manner just because they don't seem to fit your code of "cool". If we just talk about children, they are children and parents specially needs to be on their side and be the support they need for them to someday become the adults that their parents are. To not let your children be themselves because people don't seem to think the same is just pathetic. An important lesson in human compassion and accepting everyone else. Forgiveness is another lesson it teaches us and finding a purpose on your life because everybody has one and no matter what, we shouldn't stop dreaming.
If what i said above makes this movie sounds preachy, then let me tell you this that it isn't like that. It deliver its messages in subtle ways, never disguising or forcing but through its mix of the natural and supernatural it delivers. You feel it, you realize it but it never overpowers and you leave the movie having learned so much without it all sounding like a lesson. This is exactly what is been missing from animated movies. ParaNorman entertains as well, it just doesn't tries to be gimmicky and silly for the sake of lifeless children entertainment. A bit grownup for sure, not for very young children. Its not just daring but its very smart and as i have been saying, pretty scary as well. ParaNorman boosts from the incredibly done imagery. The stunning sequences that transforms one to the other dimension, the ones where Norman interacts with the witch or gets the visions. It all looks magical to say the least but has a unique atmospheric nature as well which helped Coraline so much. One of the most imaginative movies to come in recent years. The highly detailed and carefully designed animation is a delight to watch. Admirable and quite enjoyable in visual sense. The fun also comes from the screenplay where the clever humor and moving pathos are derived from unexpected sources which adds a lot to the already clever looking film. When it is creepy, its very creepy, when its scary, its terrifying. ParaNorman has a good voice cast, very recognizable voices. Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck and Christopher Mintz-Plasse did a really nice job. It is however Anna Kendrick that ends up being the show stopper, she is witty and just very interesting and it also helps her with the character she is giving her voice for.
There is a very interesting thing about the ending of the movie, a revelation about one of the characters that makes it one of its kind. The way this movie ended was a bit problematic for me, why repeat out loud what the movie says so much effectively throughout? Yeah but its not a very bad thing. ParaNorman is an intelligent, realized, beautifully designed, funny and moving horror comedy that makes you go to the unexpected places. It ends up being very familiar to one because its grand themes are very basic that we seem to overlook in our lives and an animated movie to be based on that, is very thoughtful. One of a kind experience.