Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The ParaNorman Review

Have you ever seen a ghost? Have the undead ever crossed your path? Have you ever held a conversation with the living dead? If you answered yes to the first question, cool. If you answered yes to the second and third question, whoa that's crazy cool! For most of us this is not a usual scenario, but for a young boy named Norman, this is an average day. ParaNorman is a stop motion animation film put out by Laika, the same company who created Coraline. ParaNorman is an amusing, beyond-this-world journey of a lonely and taunted middle school boy who comes to learn that his unique curse is actually a blessing.

Our story takes place in the fictional New England town of Blithe Hollow. It was made famous hundreds of years ago when the founding fathers discovered a witch, chose to hang her, and then were cursed to a gruesome afterlife as a result. Nowadays, Blithe Hollow, proud of their witch hanging ancestry, is the residence of a young boy named Norman Babcock. Norman looks like any other kid but he has the special ability to see and talk to the dead. The trouble is that no one believes him and it makes him an outcast both at school and at home.

A fellow student, Neil, who is bullied for numerous reasons, decides to befriend Norman. Though Norman tries to refuse his friendship and be left alone, Neil is determined to be buddies. He even jumps to his new pal's side when Norman's crazy reclusive Uncle Prenderghast bombards the boys one afternoon. Mr. Prenderghast tells his nephew that he too is able to communicate with the dead and claims the witch's curse is real. Norman will need to use his paranormal gift to stop the witch and save everyone from her wrath. The youth does his best to dismiss his uncle's request but starts to have flashback visions of the founding fathers and their deeds.

Mr. Prenderghast ends up passing away later that day but before he can move onto the next world, he has unfinished business to settle. He visits his nephew again, as a ghost, and tells him that for years he's been holding back the Blithe Hollow witch's curse. Now dead, he charges Norman to take over this responsibility. The anniversary of the witch's death is tonight and if she is not stopped, she will raise the dead. Norman must prevent her from waking up by reading from a book, in his uncle's study, over the spot where she is buried, before the sun sets that night. As evening approaches, Norman decides to follow through with his uncle's request. The plan goes awry when he realizes the witch is not buried where he thought she was. The cantankerous witch awakens and the dead begin to rise. Will Blithe Hollow be consumed by zombies? Will the witch strike out against the townsfolk? Will Norman be able to save everyone and end the supernatural catastrophe?

I originally saw ParaNorman in the theater and knew less than halfway in: I was going to buy it when it became available. Now that I own it, I've also watched the special features portion and it is amazing to see the ridiculous amount of detail that goes into making just one tiny little desk lamp or the amount of hair fibers that are required to make one curl on Neil's head. This aspect alone is worth getting the movie for and makes it all that more special to see the dedication involved. It's also nice that the voice actors (John Goodman, Leslie Mann, Casey Affleck, Anna Kendrick, Jeff Garlin, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Christopher Minta-Plasse) are noticeable but not so obvious that it takes away from the film. ParaNorman is a fun, classic zombie-witch-ghost movie for the whole family to enjoy.

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