movie film review | chris tookey


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  ParaNorman Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
6.00 /10
Kodi Smit-McPhee, John Goodman, Tucker Albrizzi
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Directed by: Chris Butler, Sam Fell
Written by: Chris Butler

Released: 2012
Origin: US
Length: 92

Horrific but fun.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Hot on the heels of the Paralympics comes ParaNorman. He’s not a disabled athlete – just a small boy who sees dead people… and talks to them, extremely politely.

The film in which Norman appears is not a thriller like The Sixth Sense, it’s black-comedy horror from British directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell, who brought us the quirky, imaginative but misanthropic Coraline in 2009. ParaNorman is one of the most original films of 2012.

Like Coraline, this is a weird and sometimes wonderful exercise in stop-motion animation. There’s plenty to admire in the look of the film, and the quality of its jokes.

Norman’s gift is an asset when dealing with his deceased grandmother (Elaine Stritch) who’s taken up residence on the family sofa, to do her knitting and watch horror on TV. And dead people, on the evidence of the corpses with whom Norman has affable chats as he walks to school, have much better manners than the living.

Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee from Let Me In) is an outsider at school, where he is bullied and called a freak. But when a plague of 17th century zombies threatens the community, Norman’s crazy old coot of an uncle (John Goodman) tells the boy he’s the only one who can save the day.

So Norman does just that, aided by his fat best friend (Tucker Albrizzi), Norman’s cheerleader sister (wittily voiced by Anna Kendrick) who’s deeply interested in hunky teenage boys, and one such brainless muscle-man (Casey Affleck). The school bully (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) comes along too, to undergo a kind of personal redemption, when he’s not picking his nose.

The film’s most original in the way it depicts the zombies, stern Puritans who are the hapless victims of a witch’s curse, and the witch herself, who turns out to have a lot in common with Norman. The film is a fine parable about bullying, and the proper response to it.

The characters are cartoonish but capable of reversing our expectations. I especially enjoyed Norman’s seemingly spineless sister when she turned on her little brother for having doubts about his own abilities: “I have cheered the uncheerable and I’m not going to allow you to give up now!”

There are worthwhile messages for the young about how it’s OK to be unpopular (the Paralympics-timely tagline for the film reads "You Don't Become a Hero by Being Normal"). It also shows how weak people become aggressive when they’re frightened. And I enjoyed the score by Jon Brion – it’s atmospheric, funny and ingenious.

The pace gets bogged down in detail midway, and towards the end the film gets too preachy. But these are not normal defects in horror flicks, and because they’re born of over-ambition they’re oddly endearing.

One other thing. Parts of it are genuinely horrific. Despite the PG certificate, this is not for nervous children or easily scared adults. I’m surprised it’s not a 12A.

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