Friday, August 17, 2012

‘Paranorman’ is a Well Done film with a So-So Story

Norman and his friends find zombies in the road in
"Paranorman." Photos by Laika and Focus Features.

Earlier this year, two film studios went head to head with their own Snow White ventures: Relativity Media with “Mirror Mirror” and Universal Pictures’ “Snow White and the Huntsman.” The films couldn’t have been more different and each attracted a different crowd.

Also this year, a new battle has begun for stop-motion animated family-friendly horror film – Disney’s “Frankenweenie” and Laika Entertainment’s “Paranorman” with the latter appearing in theatres today. It is hard to say if both films will attract the same crowd or not, but both companies appear to be pretty proud of their projects.

Grandma Babcock (Elaine Stritch), Sandra Babcock (Leslie Mann),
Perry Babcock (Jeff Garlin), Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee)
and Courtney (Anna Kendrick).
The concept of a family-friendly horror film is only fairly new. Films like “Monster House” and “Coraline” have made it to theaters with moderate success. It will be interesting to see how audiences react to this new batch.

“Paranorman” is sort of a hybrid of “The Sixth Sense” meets “The Night of the Living Dead” movies. Norman (Voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is your typical nerdy kid who can speak to the dead, but of course, nobody believes him. He lives in Blithe Hollow, a New England town that shares a similar history with Salem, Mass. Both towns were obsessed with witchcraft and witches. Blithe Hollow is said to be under a centuries old witch’s curse in fact.

Norman receives instructions from the town crazy, Mr. Prenderghast (John Goodman), that he and only he can break the curse. Norman is not so sure. Meanwhile, zombies break out of their graves and start to wander around the town. Norman grabs his best friend Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), his sister (Anna Kendrick) and Mitch (Casey Affleck), Neil’s older brother and Anna’s potential love interest. Together, this band of misfits travel around trying to find the answers to the curse and how to stop it.

The reason to see this movie is to appreciate the detail and how much work went into making this film. On the company’s website, there is a short that shows how much detail went into making a working desk lamp, which is less than two inches tall, and is shown with a room of other lamps. All the characters have real “hair” and the animation is quite beautiful. However, the scenery may not be enough to convince you to see this movie.

The filmmakers try hard to promote the concept that it is alright to be different, but the messages gets lost in the translation of the story. The story starts off okay and is actually quite funny in the beginning, but it loses its footing and becomes an overly long and strange production. It doesn’t help that many of the characters are unlikable.
 
“Paranorman” is from the creators of “Coraline” so use that a gauge for you and your family. If you enjoyed that movie, you will probably enjoy this one as well. If not, then plan to skip “Paranorman.” In addition, though you shouldn’t take this film too seriously, it is worth noting that in addition to the zombies, “Paranorman” features references to witches, witchcrafts, spells and more, so if you are sensitive to this type of material, it is best that you just leave it alone. (Originally posted on Examiner.com.)



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