Paranormal Fun, Less Dark Horror

I love claymation movies and the animated stories they are famous for telling.   The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, and the Corpse Bride are classic examples of the movies that keep us entertained, make us laugh, and if done right can add some wicked twists to maximize the story.  So when I saw Paranorman coming out this weekend, naturally I got excited again and my hope of clay mation redeeming itself after Pirates was sprung anew.  What did I think about it?  Please read on to find out.

Paranorman comes from the same studio that brought you Coraline, and follows the horror path much like its older sister.  The plot, for those coming into the news late, is about Norman, a boy who has the uncanny ability to communicate with the dead.  His unique gifts though are not accepted by his family and peers, which results in him getting ridiculed and pushed around.  However, Norman’s unique gifts will come in handy when the departed witch of the town decides to return and with it raise the dead to attack the town.  What nightmarish fun is to be had with the colorful cast?

This movie is definitely not as dark as Coraline.  Instead, the staff decided to swap the warped, creepy dimensions of the spider queen’s world for a more country town classic that is kid friendly.  Although some of the residents are not alive, they still look funny and friendly to make both young and young at heart chuckling at the crafty design.  In fact until the witch begins to wake, the only scary thing in this movie is the subject of death, which for a kid’s movie is surprisingly covered thoroughly.  Despite this, most younger audience members didn’t seem bothered as the team added some comedic moments to mask the sad topic.  Even when the trouble starts the scare factor of the movie is still relatively low as most of the scenes are still more funny than terrifying; the exception of course being a few screams, roars, and other sudden noises that can make you jump.

Those looking for some cute family fun will be entertained by this film.  For one thing all of the characters in this movie are funny in some form or manner.  The dad has cranky one liners, the mom sort of an airheaded caring that is humorous, the jock being dumb, the bully oblivious, etc.  This diversity helped me continue to laugh at the movie as well as latch on to a few of the characters to pull for them.  My two favorites for this movie are of course Norman and Neil.  Norman is not as funny as the other characters, but his good heart, courage, and other qualities are very relatable to me.  With this connection, Norman’s adventure and journey were more exciting to watch, perhaps even a little inspiring for me.  Neil on the other hand has that ridiculous child humor that I love.  Whether it’s being a klutz, mispronunciation of countless words, or just spouting out dumb child sayings, I was laughing the whole way through as I visualized a clay Chunks from the Goonies.

The other strength of this movie is the animation.  Again I’m a sucker for the hard work that Claymation is, and once again I was impressed.  Norman and the gang move smoothly through their environment from simple walking and talking, to running and escaping zombie attacks.  It surprised me how much detail they took to the animation, even making the sister’s hips sway as she moved.  This fantastic animation also matched the voice work from the cast, which may be no problem for computer animation, but is sure to be more of a challenge for clay animation. Even the ghosts floating motions were well done, the gestures and facial expressions mirroring the attitudes of the ghosts in the movie.  As for zombie moves, well again the team did their homework and got the slow, dragged, labored movements down pat as well.   The editing of the movie also helped keep the movie fun, organized, and smooth in both story and movement as Norman continued to journey through the dead.

Despite all the fun I had with this film though and the amazing animation, there are still a few things that were a little weakening.  For one the story is fun and moving, but for the most predictable and clichéd.  I admit there were a few surprises in the film, one very big twist I didn’t see coming, but other than that you see most things coming.  The lack of darkness also was a little disappointing as well, and could have helped keep things diverse and suspenseful for me.  There are some other weaknesses in this film like lack of adult humor, a few dragged out speeches and chases, and a few stale jokes, but these are minor mistakes that barely affect the grade.

Paranorman may not be the most fun film of the summer, but it does its job well.  Most kids and their parents will enjoy the cuteness of the movie, maybe even to the point of immediately quoting the characters in the movie.  The diverse characters are quite welcoming and the story is a nice fun adventure most people will love.  I warn you once more, in case you haven’t gotten the message, that Coraline’s darkness is barely present in the film, so skip this film if you must have that darkness.  Regardless Paranorman is good in both 3-D and regular, though if you have the option to see it regular I would go for that.  My scores for this film are down below:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  8.5

Movie Overall:  7.0-7.5


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