Friday, January 16, 2015

ParaNorman (2012)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

It’s not easy being different.  Having some sort of special talent can isolate you from other people.  Norman Babcock knows this all too well.  He can see and communicate with the dead, including his grandmother.  People don’t believe him.  His father realizes that Norman must miss her, but he feels it’s time to move on.  His mother is a little more understanding, but most of his schoolmates bully him.  The only kid that seems to accept Norman is Neil Downe, who is also bullied.

Norman and Neil live in Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts.  The town has a history of persecuting and even executing witches.  In fact, Norman is going to be in a play about a witch that was executed several centuries ago.  During a rehearsal, he starts having visions of being chased by the citizens.  Soon after, Norman is visited by his crazy uncle, Mr. Prenderghast.  Mr. Prenderghast tells Norman that Norman must start practicing an annual ritual to help save the town, but dies before he can tell Norman any of the important details.

Fortunately, Norman can see Mr. Prenderghast’s ghost.  It does make things somewhat difficult.  Norman learns that he has to retrieve a book and recite a passage, but finds out that it’s a book of fairy tales.  If Norman doesn’t read from the book, the dead will rise and wreak havoc on the town.  Well, Norman doesn’t get the whole reading thing right, so he has to fight off those that accused and hung the witch all those years ago.  He has help from his self-absorbed sister, Neil and the school bully.

One thing I’ve noticed about animated movies is that very few seem geared towards adults.  This is one of the few that come close.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy in that most adults will never consider animation or stop motion as something meant for adults, so it may well never be made.  (Note:  I’m talking mainstream, R-rated movies rather than NC-17 stuff.  Yes, I am aware that those movies exist.)  ParaNorman is a horror movie done in stop motion.  We have zombies and ghosts as well as a fight scene at the end.  The movie should be safe for teenagers and above.

The stop motion was done very well.  The movie was made using models that were made using a 3-D printer.  Instead of traditional film, a Canon 5D Mark II was used for photography.  This gives the movie a different look.  It does seem much sharper.  There were a few scenes that seemed to blur a little, but there weren’t many.  I’d even say that it was the best stop-motion film I’ve ever seen.  The last scene was done very well.

I’d recommend watching it, even if you’re an adult.  I know that it is, or at least was, available through Redbox.  (I was able to get it using a free code.)  There is an actual story with ParaNorman.  It seems more like the script was written and the stop motion was brought in later.  The only thing I found to be over the top was that just a few zombies cause the whole town to panic.  I can see people locking themselves in their houses, but a mob was formed very quickly, true to cliché. 


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