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Paranorman is the story of a boy who can see the dead and talk with them. His own family thinks he’s crazy and so does the rest of the town, because he walks around talking to people no one else can see. When an ancient witch’s curse raises zombies, it’s up to Norman to solve the situation. He’d rather do it alone, as he’s become comfortable being by himself, but the friends he makes along the way in the movie won’t let him.
We’ve all seen variants on this idea before, though by the end Paranorman delivers a unique take on the story, one that works well but is a bit on the dark side for a PG movie. It’s not overly gross or scary, but there are thematic elements that disturb some children. The thing that makes Paranorman different is the animation style. Done with stop-motion and CGI by the same studio that produced Coraline, Paranorman has a unique and quirky look that kept me watching to see how each character would be portrayed. There are no cloned characters in the film, even those with short screen time have a unique and interesting look. Norman is a sort of bland everyman compared to the exaggerated features of his family, friends and even his enemies, except for his ears. But that’s ok. Norman is “weird” on the inside, while many of the characters in his world look stranger than he does, particularly the bully Alvin.
Paranorman kept me chuckling through the whole movie, though some of the humor was a bit dark for the kids it seems to be aimed at. That being said, there were only two children in the theater when I saw the film, the rest of the seats were filled by adults.
The voice acting is amazing and every character’s voice fits their physical appearance, with maybe the exception of uncle Prenderghast and Norman’s dad, though that might be that John Goodman’s voice seemed underused here.
As I said before, there are parts of the movie that are kind of dark, and I’m not sure how a kid would view the film at all. That being said, the horror elements are strong but balanced out by the humor. There are two car rides that had me laughing with the funny and innovative things going on in those scenes.
There is an underlying message to the film, but it doesn’t feel cheesy and I never felt that I was being hit over the head with it. I never felt it got too scary, and there are plenty of jokes that may go over kid’s heads that their parents will find quite funny. There’s a lot to like about this film, and even if the story doesn’t wow you, the animation and voice acting will definitely make up for that fact.
If you do go, be sure to stay for the little behind the scenes glimpse that comes after the credits.