Thursday, September 20, 2012

ParaNorman: review

It took me awhile to see this one.

Well, I'd seen previews for ParaNorman ahead of Mirror Mirror and seen a couple of TV spots, and wasn't really that interested. Then I heard it was stop-motion instead of just CGI. That really impressed me, since I'd thought CGI had eclipsed stop-motion animation.

And then, finally, I heard the spoiler that a character was revealed to be gay at the end like it was no big thing.

And that's how it was in the movie. Just a few seconds where a guy talks about his boyfriend. And a million parents got upset.

Curiosity piqued, I checked the IMDb boards and discovered it wasn't just a zombie and ghost movie for the whole family. So, I decided to see it myself.

I had the day off work, so I decided to go see it before it closed. I wound up being the only person catching the showing, so I had the entire theater to myself.

To be honest, I was quite impressed with the movie. Visually, the film is stunning. There is some serious stylization going on in the character design that looks really weird in still images, but when the characters are in motion, it doesn't matter. There's a pretty cool sequence at the end that's a smooth marriage of stop-motion and CGI. It looks amazing!

The story follows a little boy named Norman who has the strange ability to see ghosts and speak to them. Apparently, people have heard and he's teased for it, even his own father wanting him to just be normal.

Norman is befriended by another social outcast, a young kid named Neil who's fat. Norman doesn't really want a friend, but Neil doesn't mind Norman's oddball gift and even wants to see if Norman can help him play with his recently deceased dog. ("He was hit by an animal rescue vehicle. Tragic and ironic.")

However, Norman's uncle pops up on the scene. Something bad is about to happen and Norman needs to be told: the dead are coming! It's tied to the Witch's Curse of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts: a witch was being tried and cursed her accusers to death and to rise again.

To keep her curse at bay, someone with the gift of seeing and speaking with the dead (like Norman, his uncle, and as we can later see, the witch herself: the gift is subtly noted in character design with hexagon-shaped pupils and irises) must read from a book at her grave before sundown once a year. Norman's uncle was doing this, but dies before he can tell Norman what to do, but when he tells him posthumously, he doesn't give him enough details.

As Norman tries to read the book at the old graveyard, he's too late as the seven accusers of the witch rise from the dead.

With zombies invading the town of Blithe Hollow, it's up to Norman, Neil, Norman's sister Courtney, Neil's brother Mitch, and school bully Alvin to put the witch's curse at bay again: for now and always.

If ParaNorman isn't showing near you, I'd suggest at least renting the DVD when it comes out in November, unless you can catch it at a second-run theater. It's a wildly fun, mildly creepy movie with a great message about being non-discriminatory.

My only real complaint is that it wasn't released closer to Halloween: it put me right in the mood for it!

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