MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Focus Features
Directed by Sam Fell, Chris Butler. Animated Feature
When I was a kid, I always enjoyed Halloween and ghost stories. The best ghost stories featured a deceased character forced to haunt the neighborhood until a certain objective is met, usually involving some kind of restitution for sins of the past. ParaNorman is a beautifully animated film that understands the nature of a good ghost story, coupled with interesting characters and a good plot. The movie deals in grim things with a light hand.
Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is an 11-year-old boy who sees dead people everywhere, including the ghost of his grandmother (Elaine Stritch), who watches late night horror films with him. Norman’s special gift is not understood by the living members of his family and makes him a social outcast with all of the kids in school, with the exception of his good-natured friend Neil (Tucker Albrizzi). There’s real irony in all of this, for Norman’s home town (modeled on Salem, Massachusetts) is filled with shops and attractions that exploit Puritan witch trials, including a school program based on this theme. When Norman’s Uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman) tells him that the witch’s curse is real and gives Norman clues to discover this secret, circumstances unite him with his dismissive older sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick), the bumbling bully Alvin (Christophet Mintz-Plasse), and Neil’s older brother Mitch (Casey Affleck). Together, they will learn how to get along in order to save the town.
The characters are fairly stereotypical, but there is a lot of good humor in ParaNorman, coupled with beautiful stop motion animation married to fantastic set design and CGI effects. I was particularly surprised by how dark the film was willing to go, while still delivering an emotional, moving and positive conclusion.
With intolerance rampant everywhere these days, ParaNorman dares to meditate on the pre-existing conditions of bullying, in its many various forms. This movie doesn’t hold back from showing the great harm that comes when we choose to treat others as outsiders.
Four halos: An entertaining, funny and scary movie for older children, accompanied with more than a few lessons about forgiveness and tolerance.
Three pitchforks A lot of morbid subject matter, including suicide, sudden death and murder, that makes this inappropriate for young children; some mild sexual innuendos.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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