Movie Review: ParaNorman

Note: This review will contain SPOILERS for ParaNorman, so if you don’t want to know what happens in the movie, don’t click on the jump. In fact, maybe you better ignore this post entirely.

Anyways, I don’t often go to the movies, but this time was one of the exceptions. I went with my mom, and we went to a local independent theatre (seats are okay, cup holders are too big, tickets are cheap, popcorn is good) because my mom doesn’t like the mainstream theatres because they’re too loud. The nice thing about going to the movies at this theatre though, was that there were only about five other people in there–on a Sunday afternoon–so you can pretty much sit wherever you want and you don’t have to worry about the seats being packed if you’re late.

It’s pretty sweet.

In case you can’t tell from the title, I went to see ParaNorman, here’s a brief synopsis:

In ParaNorman, a small town comes under siege by zombies. Who can it call? Only misunderstood local boy Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is able to speak with the dead. In addition to the zombies, he’ll have to take on ghosts, witches and, worst of all, moronic grown-ups, to save his town from a centuries-old curse. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.

Hit the jump for my impressions of the movie (SPOILERS AHOY!)….

Okay, once again HERE BE SPOILERS, so if you don’t want me to spoil the movie for you, go find something else to do, might I suggest perusing the TV Tropes Wiki? It’s the most amazing time-waster ever.

Okay, now that all the people who don’t want to be spoiled are gone, here are my impressions of the movie. Overall, I liked it. It was cute, at times it was gross, and there were plenty of jokes in there for a more adult audience.

The characters, it must be said, start off as flat stereotypes, but most of them gain some characterization later on. Norman is your typical “misfit” who is bullied in school for claiming to see ghosts (naturally, no one believes him). This is actually how he bonds with Neil, who is similarly ostracized for being overweight (as well as a variety of health problems, including irritable bowel syndrome). There’s also Courtney, Norman’s cheerleader sister, Mitch, Neil’s brother who is every bit the stereotypical “dumb jock”, and Alvin, the school bully. Other memorable characters include Norman’s parents (and grandmother), Norman’s uncle, Mr. Prenderghast, who has also been ostracized for his ability to see ghosts,  the school drama teacher (who completely hams it up in every scene she’s in) the zombies (appearances can be deceiving) and the witch herself.

As far as the animation goes, I’m no expert, but it looks great (especially for a stop motion film). As far as the story goes, the pacing is good, although I did find that it slowed down a lot towards the end of the film. Thematically, the film explores themes of bullying, acceptance of those who are different, and forgiveness, which I felt it did very well without browbeating the viewer with it. The one character I did have an issue with, though, is the lone black character being portrayed as an overweight “sassy black woman”, whose only role in the film is one car chase and a comment about police brutality (she’s a cop), paraphrased: “You aren’t supposed to be shootin’ citizens, that’s what the police are for!” Um, yeah….

Of course, this review wouldn’t be complete without a discussion of the twist near the end. No, it’s not the fact that the zombies weren’t actually trying to kill them all alone, it has to do with the character of Mitch.

You see, throughout the movie, Mitch’s sister, Courtney, has taken every opportunity to flirt with Mitch. At the end of the movie, she asks him out on a date “to see a movie, not a scary one, though”, to which Mitch replies with this little gem:

“Sure, you’re gonna love my boyfriend. He’s like a total chick-flick nut!”

Holy. Shit.

I’ll be honest, I knew about the line beforehand, and was waiting to hear the reactions of the people who were watching it with me. The woman behind me was all like “Oh my god!” and her kids seemed kind of confused by her reaction, in a “Mommy, what did he mean?” kind of way. It’s 2012, Canada has same-sex marriage. Get used to it.

Okay, seriously now. We have an honest-to-goodness openly gay character in a highly marketed kids movie. No subtext, no Word of God “Dumbledore is gay” bullshit that we heard about after the series was finished, a bona fide openly gay character, a likeable openly gay character–in a kids movie.

So, overall, it’s not the Best. Movie. Ever! But it’s still a great movie, and I’d encourage you to check it out (particularly if you’re a fan of horror flicks, as this movie is a bit of a deconstruction of the genre), and hey, it has the first openly gay animated character in film, that’s nothing to cough at.

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