Every once in a while, there comes a movie that actually throws a curveball your way and blindsides you. It can come in any form, from any genre, and most likely when you least expect it. In this case, it came in the dog days of the movie theater, when there really isn’t much left to see and expectations are really low. In fact, in my August Blockbuster Guide, I wasn’t sure about if the film would do well and thought it was a little too young for adults to really enjoy, especially since it was coming out around the same time as Ice Age. However, it’s come to light that the trailers just didn’t do this film any justice. In fact, more so than Coraline, this movie really hits home for people of my generation, as well as older and younger audiences.
So why does this film hit home so hard? What’s so charming about yet another zombie movie? And why do trailer fail at representing movies accurately? Let’s waste no time in answering any and all of these questions, and look at Paranorman.
Paranorman follows the tale of young Norman, who has been gifted with the ability to speak with ghosts, a power which makes him the town joke. He feels alone and isolated not only by his town, but even in his own family. One day, Norman’s uncle tells him that he must read to the spirit of the witch, a local who was tried and hanged in ye olde times and is now the town’s merchandising gimmick (think Paul Revere, or Betsy Ross). If he doesn’t, she will cause the judge and 6 witnesses who led to her hanging to rise from the dead as zombie, and before any more questions can be answered, like where the grave is, the Uncle dies. Why he waited so long to tell this to Norman, no one knows, he was just crazy.
So, Norman fails, and now it’s up to him, his sister Courtney, his new friend Neil, Neil’s brother Mitch, and the school bully, Alvin, to solve the big mystery and put the witch’s curse to an end. I won’t say anymore than that because actually watching the story unravel is a lot more fun when you don’t know its coming. While the movie isn’t going to get the highest rating I ever give, you should still make the effort to go out and see it on the big screen. Just trust me on this one. If not, TRUST MOVIE BOB. He knows his movies.
What I will say was nice is that the movie deals with the issue of bullying, and the revenge fantasies of the bullied, in a very mature way, much better than the movie Chronicle. As something whose been at the receiving end of a couple food-based projectiles, I can tell you it’s really easy to turn around and start pulling that kid’s head out. Hell, if I were the witch in the movie, a lot worse shit would go down than what actually does. But the moral is mature and really heartwarming when you get down to it, even if it is just a wee bit over-simplified.
The film took five whole years to complete and the hard work certainly shows. Every character is unique and individual, which a multiple expression that move with fluid ease. In fact, the movement of the characters is incredibly life like, something that it incredibly difficult to do with stop motion animation. The best part to me is that every object has a specific texture. Clothing looks like it’s made of fabric, the trees look like the bark would actually be rough to the touch, and the toilet paper looks and feels like toilet paper.
The color scheme is amazing and is really true to the shades of life. There are drabs of dark colors that pop with bright shades that remain muted in a realistic way. It doesn’t make the movie feel depressing, oppressive, or dull, it just works to make it feel more like a fluid, realistic movie. While a little more pop and dazzle like in Coraline would have been fun, those colors wouldn’t have worked in this haunted New England town. Make no mistake, this film is a fantastically well designed and is a modern art feat to behold.
But it’s not exactly perfect. While the plot is strong and the message clear as a bell, it’s missing something. The biggest problem is that I have been wracking my brains trying to sort out what that problem is. Maybe it’s because it’s a short film. Maybe because the solution is just too easy. Maybe it’s because the rift between Norman and his family is just too poorly settled and a little forced. Or maybe it was the fact that in the end, there was less action than I expected. Is that a bad thing? Of course not. But will a film is marketed as a zombie-fighting flick, and you get a well done supernatural introspective piece on the effects and scars of bullying, then its like getting milk when you were expecting water. You still like it, but you can’t help but get a weird taste in your mouth like something was missing.
Overall, ParaNorman is a really good movie for people of all ages, and really does deserve to be seen, if only for the strong story and the amazing visuals (which you really, really need to see on a big screen). While it’s just a very hair away from being a great film, it’s still really really good and a lot of fun – one of those movies that can really strike a lot of chords with its humor and heart. I’m even considering buying it on DVD when it comes out! Or Blu Ray…whatever the new formating is now.