Feb 11, 2013

[Movies] ParaNorman (2012)

I'll always have a major affinity for stop-motion animation. It's hard to pinpoint precisely why, but there's just something about this particular animation medium that is forever endearing given its signature look and unique style. No matter how far CGI technology advances, you can never truly replace the somewhat coarse beauty of stop-motion.

It's nice that there are in fact studios that continue this particular variety of the art despite how much ":easier" some of the more modern techniques may be. And thus it's important to continue to support these movies in the hopes that they still have the necessary resources to continue on.

And this was a rather peculiar venture since it clearly was meant to pay homage to classic zombie movies and such. But at the same time, the story was oriented towards children, which isn't quite what you expect for the projected audience for a horror-style movie.

But then again, people understand at times just how much children can actually handle and of course how much kids enjoy being scared to some degree.

Synopsis: ParaNorman is a 2012 stop-motion animated movie directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler, who also wrote the screenplay for this movie. It was created by Laika, the studio who also created Coraline.

In Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, we meet young Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who apparently has the ability to speak to ghosts. He regularly watches TV with the ghost of his grandmother and encounters a whole host of spirits on his way to school every day. Of course people find his behavior to be rather strange and unusual and just dismiss it at the results of a child's overactive imagination. And thus he lives a rather solitary life with no real friends since no one believes in his ability.

But that changes when he meets Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), a rather overweight boy who is constantly bullied at school. He finds Norman's story rather intriguing and thus the two form a friendship. But just as things seem to be on the upswing, Norman has a most disturbing vision in the middle of the rehearsals for the school play - a production that reenacts the burning of a supposed witch in the town 300 years ago. Shortly after he is approached by his uncle Mr. Prenderghast (John Goodman) , who warns him that the vision is a dark omen of things to come and Norman has a duty to fulfill in order to protect the town.

I definitely liked the core premise of the movie - the whole speaking to the dead thing. And the production team really managed to find a creative way to convey this in a highly visual manner that wasn't overly scary. We're not talking about the shocker moments in movies like The Sixth Sense but more just a matter-of-fact depiction of Norman's reality. This is his life and he's already used to it, so why should he be overly scared, right?

The eventual host of characters that make up the core crew of the movie do oddly echo the classic Scooby-Doo cartoon. It doesn't help that they do end up driving around in a van for most of the movie. And those are the little humorous details that add to what makes this movie so interesting and endearing as you progress through the story.

I did the like whole central conflict of the story - of how to resolve the issue of Norman's vision. The story starts out fairly clear-cut in a potential solution (or at least one that Norman can come to terms with), but over time things change and shift around and the truth is revealed about what is truly going on in the town. And thus the creatives behind the movie were able to convey their particular message about bullying and judging those different from you in a manner that is fairly satisfying from an overall resolution perspective.

And yay for the token non-stereotypical gay character!

ParaNorman is a decent addition to our growing collection of stop-motion animated features. It was certainly a strong venture for an original story (as opposed to an adapted work) and a fun little adventure piece as well. Thus the movie garners 3.5 non-stereotypical reactions of the townfolk to zombies and other monsters out of a possible 5.

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