'Puzzle' is Well Made, but a Few Pieces are Missing

Based on the film Rompecabezas, Puzzle is one of those little-known independent films that sneaks into theaters with little to no fanfare, although the fact that it is being promoted “from the producer of Little Miss Sunshine” should help it get noticed somewhat. Puzzle is a quiet, little film about a woman who discovers that jigsaw puzzles are the key to changing her life. While the subject matter doesn’t sound all that exciting, the film really isn’t about puzzles but instead about one finding their voice, or so it appears. It’s also a message film that has its own agenda expecting the audience to agree with the choices of the main character and applaud her “brave” behavior. Frankly, it just feels manipulative.

Directed by Marc Turtletaub, Puzzle’s most impactful scene comes within the first few minutes. We see Agnes (Kelly MacDonald) cleaning up the house and they decorating it for a birthday party. Then we see her serving appetizers while being ignored by the guests. …

‘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. 


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