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A movie directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell

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  • Aug 27, 2012
** out of ****

Whenever an animated film makes a commendable effort to reach out to multiple generations, I must give it props for that alone. They can't all be just for the kiddies; if a filmmaker can provide as good at time for the adults as for the children, then they deserve to be held in high regards. I personally like the animated fare that, while decidedly scarce due to unpopular demand, is geared for the most part towards a more mature audience. Stop-motion is a wonderful art in which an animator can attempt to resonate with a variety of different age groups; since the stylistics are elegant and quirky. There have been great stop-motion films in the past; films that have that sort of multi-generational appeal that I look for, and both charm and engage all audiences with open minds who gaze upon them. In that sense, based on my own personal experience with the film, "Paranorman" is not a good stop-motion feature.

Let's start with the story. Norman (voice of Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a young and peculiar preteen living in a small town with a very substantial gift; the ability to see and talk to ghosts. His tendency to make use of this gift has convinced his parents (voices of Jeff Garlin and Leslie Mann), but especially his father, that there's something wrong with him. Norman has always felt like an outsider, pushed around by the neighborhood bully (voice of Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and rejected by his family members, including his blonde teenage sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick). However, when he's paid a visit by his strange and bearded uncle (John Goodman), Norman discovers that he might have a mightier role in the universe.

Yes, as you can probably tell from the advertisements; that purpose is to save his small town from the undead after a witch's ancient curse brings the dead back to life from the grave. Once the zombies are out an about, the film pulls a twist on us by revealing that they don't want to eat our brains like in the movies, but just want the curse to be lifted from the town and themselves. These are the undead c corpses of judges and various other curious parties who assisted in the hanging of the witch, and its Norman's duty to convince her that the town is worth keeping and that she - by destroying it - only is as bad as her tormentors. That's one of the many messages of "Paranorman".

Directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler craft an intriguing oddball world, and are successful in populating it with a variety of different characters. The only ones I haven't mentioned are Norman's one and only friend, the chubby Neil (voice of Tucker Albrizzi), and his older brother, the jock Mitch (Casey Affleck). But for all these characters, he film doesn't offer up much focus. I'm down with its themes of being different and shit, hell I usually connect strongly with all that, but alas the film is more devoted to lame jokes and consistently bland plotting. The universe is certainly interesting, but it's as if the filmmakers don't know who they're making it for. Adults will likely find the messages too familiar, although the horror buffs will dig some of the references (I know I did), while the younglings are likely to be frightened by the macabre themes and zombies.

If there's one really positive thing I can say for it, the animation in "Paranorman" is really gorgeous. It's also very innovative. The film - blending horror and comedy themes with animation - evokes past stop-motion efforts like "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Coraline" (both fantastic) but looks unlike the most of them. It's absolutely eye-catching at times, especially in the finale where CGI seems to have been employed, but unfortunately, even the visual appeal of this film failed to draw me in at the end of the day. I do not mind the film, it has its merits, but I was supposed to be laughing and I was most of all supposed to be enjoying myself; and I didn't do either of them. This film is worth seeing if only because I might be biased in my opinion of it; and the critics seem to love it. But for whatever reason, I found it nigh impossible to get into "Paranorman". And that's a shame, because I was really pumped. And the disappointment of it all has left me somewhat vulnerable.

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More ParaNorman reviews
review by . August 18, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
You Don't Get to be Normal When You Need to be a Hero
Who says that you need fancy CGI-animation to make one competent family-friendly film? If the recent stop-motion film “Coraline”, the animated series “Samurai Jack” and the Japanese anime movies directed by Hayao Miyazaki were any indication, filmmakers need not rely on fancy computer graphics to fill theater seats. All it takes is some old-fashioned creativity and imagination to bring viewers in a world of wonder. Directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler (who also wrote the script) …
review by . August 20, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Nine times out of ten, debating a film’s appropriateness for children is utterly pointless. But in the case of ParaNorman, a 3D stop-motion animated film about ghosts, zombies, and a witch’s curse, I cannot help but wonder what age group the filmmakers had in mind. With its morbid imagery, its broad and occasionally twisted sense of humor, and its handling of dark issues such as bullying, death, and the execution of suspected witches, …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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