A boy who can talk to the dead is the only hope to save a small town when its past comes back to haunt its residents. In pseudo-claymation!
Chris Butler, 2012
Anyone who’s looking for movies for older kids who aren’t yet teenagers can pretty much forget about the live action set these days. There’s not a lot of stuff being made for that awkward age between little kids and teenagers. Everything has to be sanitised, simplistic and silly or marketed older to sell younger; teenagers fretting over romantic entanglements, Disney or Nickelodeon plastered all over them. This isn’t to say everything made for that age group is bad, just that it’s being aimed too young. There’s not a lot that helps kids transition in that awkward middle group, for kids who are growing up and learning to engage with more complex ideas but aren’t at the teen stage yet.
(Poster by Dave Perillo)
Back in the day, there were great movies for tweenagers; The Goonies is a particular favourite, but even movies like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory provide scarier moments and more difficult moral questions. ParaNorman takes on that difficult age admirably, asking difficult moral questions and bringing up the concept of adults’ fallibility with a sense of humour and a positive outlook along with some cool zombie action. There’s a sensitivity to the way they treat the characters; even seemingly two-dimensional characters are given some depth without losing some of their less desirable qualities. Norman, at the centre of the action, is a tired hero, sick of being ostracised for his abilities but with a kind heart. It’s this heart that lets him see things differently, and it’s this ability that provides his courage and understanding. The movie takes on the topic of anger born of fear and provides a way for children to understand what drives adults to treat people badly, while giving them the tools to think differently.
The animation in this is terrific, a very cool style that suits the spooky setting and quirky characters well. The final battle is…a little over the top before a very sweet scene, and I think that diminishes the movie’s power. The voices are good, but the movie is at its best in moments of sublime madness; Dad saying he’s going to pull over the car if the kids and the zombie don’t stop arguing in the back, a child more afraid of grown-ups than zombies. It’s funny and clever, and an enjoyable film.
ParaNorman on IMDb