MOVIE REVIEW: ParaNorman
Posted by sarawestrop on September 5, 2012
It follows the story of Norman, a lonely boy who it just so happens can see and talk to ghosts. Poor Norman is a strange little soul who takes comfort in zombie movies….seriously, this kid loves them. He has a zombie toothbrush, alarm clock, amusing zombie head slippers and his room is COVERED in undead posters.
This is a film which harks back to a forgotten era of horror; taking delight in reminding older viewers of childhood fear, while scaring a whole new generation. The film has a kitsch Grindhouse-style opening and the viewer joins Norman watching a pretty rubbish zombie B-movie, complete with very slow shuffling zombie, screaming heroine and a badly placed boom mike.
Poor Norman, his parents don’t understand him, his self-centred sister Courtney CAN’T stand him and he gets bullied at school for being different (the kids call him AbNorman). He keeps his head down and tries to stay out of everyone’s way. He only really seems to come alive when he’s talking to the ghosts!
Norman learns from his creepy outcast Uncle (a brilliant turn by John Goodman) that it’s his responsibility to save the town from an evil witch’s curse…but of course things of course go wrong, the undead rise and it’s up to Norman to stop them and save the town from the zombies and said witch.
Norman is joined on his quest by Alvin, the school’s bully, Courtney, his new chubby friend Neil and Neil’s buff but vacant older brother Mitch, a brilliant bunch of stereotypical characters ripped right out of any B-movie horror you can think of. The jock, bully, hot blonde, fat kid and the outcast – and that’s what helps make this film so special.
The message of the film is one of acceptance. To some it could come off as preaching, but this is a kid’s film and bullying is a pretty hot topic… and sadly something most of us do experience at some stage in our lives. The film strikes the right balance between not forcing the message down your throat but making sure it’s prevalent throughout the film without ever becoming too schmaltzy.
But back to the action: visually the movie is absolutely stunning. It’s the slickest and most expressive stop motion committed to film. In one second of dialogue up to 24 face movements are painstakingly crafted to really bring the characters to life – Norman has 9000 different faces, so the level of detail is just incredible.
Most stop motions films have just a fraction of ParaNorman’s facial detail, and the effects are mind-blowing. Also the CGI that has been used in the film complements and blends with the action instead of standing out or jarring with the look of the film.
The voice cast for the film is an eclectic and very impressive mix. Khodi Smit-McPhee as Norman is a perfect blend of shyness with a maturity beyond his years. Anna Kendrick is bang on as Courtney, Casey Affleck is actually a pretty good screamer, playing jock Mitch while Tucker Albrizzi as his little brother Neil is adorably cheerful. Christopher Mintz-Plasse defies his on-screen stereotype and stands out as the thick bully Alvin with his nasally and whiny delivery making this character the one we actually feel most sorry for out of the bunch.
However, it’s worth mentioning the action is only part of what makes this film so enchanting. The Jon Brion score harkens back to horror movies of the 80’s, with lots of low booming synthesisers playing whenever a scary zombie shuffles on screen.
The poignant moments in the film are flushed with a gorgeous piano-led medley that certainly helped make us sniffle quietly into our sleeve. We found ourselves squirming in our seats at some of the scarier moments, especially anything involving the zombies, and this is definitely not a film for young kidlets, but older children will delight in being scared. Us adults get to enjoy a superb story with lots of throwbacks to a bygone golden age of horror (The Halloween ringtone joke make us laugh so hard we almost fell out of our chair).
This has quite possibly been our favourite film of the year so far. Go see it on the big screen, and make sure you buy a big tub of popcorn to hide behind. ParaNorman is an absolute joy to watch. Funny, touching and absolutely stunning to look at.
Reporter: Sara Westrop