CAST: KodiSmit-McPhee,Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, John Goodman, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, JodelleFerland, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Elaine Stritch DIRECTOR:Sam Fell, Cris Butler SCREENWRITER:Cris Butler PRODUCER: Travis Knight, Arianne Sutner EDITOR: Christopher Murrie MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Jon Brion GENRE: , , , RUNNING TIME: 92minutes CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tristan Oliver DISTRIBUTOR: Focus Features LOCATION: USA
CINEMA rating: V 14
Eleven-year-old Norman Babcock (voice of Kodi Smith-McPhee) can communicate with the dead. For him, his dead grandmother (voiced by Elaine Stritch) is still alive, as she still hangs around the family house and talks to Norman as though she never left home. His parents are worried that his behavior indicates that he can’t as yet cope with the loss of his grandma, but Norman is convinced otherwise. In fact, Norman is so at home with ghosts, that on the way to school each day, he greets dead people he never even met in life—and sometimes dead birds and animals, too, like a raccoon run over by a motorist. This makes him a weird kid, shunned, teased and bullied by schoolmates, except by one, another reject named Neil (voiced by Tucker Albrizzi) who will be part of the adventure awaiting Norman when the latter finds out from his oddball great uncle Mr. Prenderghast (voiced by John Goodman) that he has been chosen to save their zombie-infested hometown, Blithe Hollow, from the curse of an 18th century witch.
Why is it that any movie town that has witches and ghosts and ogres in it must have “Hollow” as a second name? Is it because Hollow smacks of Halloween? That gives you a clue to the nature of ghoulish entertainment ParaNorman offers its audience. So many ghost movies have been made that it’s hard to think anyone can still come up with something new to startle audiences. In this sense, ParaNorman’s supposed shockers fail to shock—though it’s more likely we’ve been desensitized by seeing too many horror movies. Be that as it may, there will always be youngsters who’ll shriek at a ghostly surprise—as those we encountered in the mall theater we watched at. Perhaps movie critics grow old and blasé but there will always be new moviegoers to terrorize. One thing about the animation: the ugly zombies become uglier and duller due to the 3D; that might as well stand for Dark, Dim and Dreary, not worth the price of admission. They should have made the zombies out of glow-in-the-dark stuff—at least they’ll look exciting.
There are definitely positive elements in ParaNorman, like Norman’s grace under bully pressure, a sign that the boy is really brave, accepting, and self-confident inside. His calmness in the presence of ghosts or his family’s incredulity is also another admirable trait; after all, how many 11-year olds do you know can deal with the living dead without flinching? ParaNorman is a statement about intolerance, claiming that evil deeds (unjustly condemning and burning a suspected witch at the stake) result from fear and inspire vengeance. It is also a plea made on behalf of children to be heard by parents and elders alike, no matter how “different” the child is, because being different can also give a person the power to do good for others.
One dangerous side of ParaNorman, particularly since it is directed at children, is its casual treatment of homosexuality. A brief and apparently humorous scene shows a muscular man, all that time presented as a he-man, later on matter-of-factly saying he has a boyfriend. Is that supposed to signal to the audience that same sex relationships ought to be accepted as natural and normal? Beware that youngsters do not get subtly brainwashed by seemingly harmless incidents in movies into accepting errant behaviors that could lead to self-destruction or defilement in the light of the gospel.