Tag Archives: Movie Review

Weekend Movie Review – Paranorman

28 Aug

Image Copyright Laika Studios

This weekend I did something that I am prone to do every now and then.  I kidnapped my husband.  The ransom for his release was dinner and a movie.  Alfonso “The Husband” is a great man and can be romantic at times. The night he proposed was amazingly thoughtful and romantic. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to need that spark of romance as often as I do. I have a nagging suspicion that he’s been slowly training me to think that ordering a pizza and watching a movie while sitting on separate couches is romance.  It worries me slightly.  So occasionally I get all spiffy and tell him to get his shoes on because we are going on an adventure.  He spends the drive trying to guess where I am taking him while simultaneously pleading that it’s just Chipotle and not shopping or something equally girlie.

Sunday I got all dolled up with my new hair do to go to a bridal shower for my twin brother’s fiance.  It was an amazingly elegant and beautiful shower!  They did a great job.  On my way home I couldn’t help but think that I should take advantage of all the work I had already put in to make myself look like a total babe.  So I walked in the house, gave “The Husband” a kiss and told him that we’re going out.  Then I sashayed to the door leaving him to drool behind me.

The adventure and ransom for this week was dinner and ParaNorman.

I am going to try my best to keep the spoilers at a minimum for this, but I will just state for the record that this does contain a couple spoilers.

The both of us enjoyed this movie.  The animation is great.  Who doesn’t love a good stop motion flick?  Honestly, I think that would be an awesome job to have.  If I was more confident about my skills as an animator, I would apply to Laika.  I would get to play with dolls all day!  How awesome would that be?  Seriously.  Think about it.

I dare you to say this doesn’t look like the most fun you’ll ever get paid for.

It was a really sweet movie about daring to be yourself but it was surprisingly and extremely disturbing at points.  It’s a children’s movie and they kept throwing around words like “murder” and “burn em'”.  They weren’t talking about the zombies in the movie either.  They were talking about Norman.

One thing you need to know about this town is that they are obsessed with this spooky tale of a witch from centuries past in a way that is akin to Salem, Massachusetts.  This mean, old, ugly witch was sentenced to death for being a witch by 7 townsfolk, and when she died she laid a curse on the town that on the anniversary of her death the dead will rise and destroy the town.

The movie starts out with Norman and his family.  They really don’t appear to approve or like him much in varying degrees.  His dad is a real hard-ass and his sister is a teenage diva.  His mom is the only one that really doesn’t give him too much of a hard time.  Kind of not being supportive, but also not being mean about it.  In fact, the only member of his family who is really on the “YAY NORMAN!” train is his grandmother, who is dead, because he can talk to dead people.   On top of the lack of support at home, when Norman goes to school and gets bullied and picked on.  This kid really can’t get a break.

He’s smiling because he’s secretly called Peter Venkman when she was taking a nap.

Here’s where the spoilers start.

After the first day of school, he starts bonding (rather reluctantly) with Neil, the token fat kid with all the heart.  Neil is sweet and laid back like every kid in junior high should be but isn’t.  When Norman asks him why the bullies don’t seem to bother him, Neil responds that bullying is the natural order of things and that if Norman were bigger he would probably do the same thing.

My reaction to that comment exactly.

Wait…  What?

Now, part of me really admires that the kid being bullied is shrugging it off as if it’s no big thing.  Bravo, kid!  The only thing is, that this isn’t a real kid.  And sad as it is, people do get a lot of their opinions about the world from movies.  Even children’s movies.  Shouldn’t the message be “Bullying is bad.” and not “Meh.  It happens.”?

Now, in my pessimistic mind, I am thinking that Norman is going to go home and start pumping iron and working on making himself bigger so that he can be the bully.  His buddy says it’s cool so it’s okay, right?

Thankfully the movie does not go that route.  It kind of just glides over that comment of Neil’s entirely.

Norman starts to see visions about a curse that a witch cast centuries ago and getting warnings that the dead are coming.  He even gets this visit from a crazy uncle telling him that he has to stop the curse by reading a fairy tale.  Norman brushes him off until his ghost pops out of a toilet and tells him this crap is for real.  (I take full credit for that beautiful pun.)

No need to be ashamed, Norman. There’s one in every family.

Procrastinating like a boss, Norman heads out at the very last second to complete this task, and surprise!  He’s a little too late and hi jinx ensue.

Zombies bust out of the ground like daisies and start looking for him.  On his way into town he runs into his sister, Neil, and Neil’s brother who were out looking for him.  Of course he didn’t tell anyone that he was just going for a stroll to save the world.

Zombies chase.  People scream.  It’s funny and a little scary actually.  It’s great fun.

Then the twist!

The Zombies corner Norman while he’s searching for the answer to stop the zombies.  Because he can talk to the dead zombie “Mwahheeheh”s are no problem for him.  He soon discovers the reason these zombies were cursed.  You know that witch story the town is obsessed with?  Turns out it’s true, only with a few details missing.  Instead of the witch being old and ugly, she was actually a pretty little girl with a gift identical to Norman’s.  The zombies were her accusers and in her last moment she cursed them so that they would return to be hated and feared and punished like she was.  The accusers are remorseful and see the error of their ways and need help to end the curse.

Que Norman.

Norman tries to lead the zombies to safety so that he can talk the witch out of being mean.  In the mean time, the angry townsfolk have gathered their torches and pitchforks and are shouting for murder.  They want blood and they want it bad.

We shot Old Yeller when he started foaming from the mouth! It’s only the humane thing to do.

Obviously they did not kill Norman.  With a very passionate speech about doing what’s right and being different is okay, they all realize their mistake.  Including his dad, who gathers Norman, his sister, and the ring leader of the zombie gang into the car so they can go talk the witch out of all this madness.

When Norman gets to talk to the witch she has completely forgotten herself and is consumed by her revenge.  Norman then gives another compassionate speech while trying not to die from the lightning shooting out of her eyes and hair.  He somehow gets her to remember herself and that she was a kind little girl who was wronged.  The whole message of the speech is that people get bullied and it’s bad but that we have to be better than that and not sink to their level.  We need to be better than our bullies and not turn around and become a bully.  The little girl is finally ready to let go of her grudge and her ghost passes on.  The curse is broken and the zombies pass on too, leaving the town in peace.

Everything is hunky dory.  The town accepts Norman for who he is and he even being considered a cool kid.  His family accepts him and even his Dad tries to talk to the ghost of his mother.  It’s a sweet moment.

My thoughts on the movie.

I think, on the whole the messages, of this movie are great.  The three that stand out the most to me are:

  • Being different isn’t a bad thing, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of who you are.
  • Just because you are afraid of something doesn’t always make it bad.  You should learn the facts before you make that call.
  • Bullying happens, and if you are bullied the best thing you can do is rise above it, and not sink to your bully’s level by becoming one yourself.

Notice how I didn’t say “Bullying is wrong”?  It’s because it isn’t really a message of the story.  Sure, the people who bullied (the zombies) are punished by the person that they wronged (the witch), but movie pretty much says that she was in the wrong for retaliating.  There is a brief scene where Norman is horrified by what they did to the little girl, but the zombies look sad and say they know they were bad, and all is okay again.  They are vilified for maybe 87 seconds.  Also, I keep going back to Neil’s comment towards the beginning of the movie about how bullying is natural.  He even says it’s human nature and survival of the fittest.  It feels like a shrug off.  Bullying is just a way of life.  Not “Stop Bullying” or “Bullying is Bad”, just “Meh.  It happens.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I think all of these messages are awesome and I applaud the creators for tackling some pretty heavy subject matter.  I personally feel like it would have been stronger without the “bullying is natural” bit.  Yes, everyone gets bullied at least once in their lives.  Yes, we shouldn’t respond.  But giving bullies a free pass and kind of an excuse, makes the whole thing seem a little hollow.  In a society where bullying is a big issue, I think we should still be saying it’s not cool to be mean to someone.

Maybe the next time I get someone gettin’ all up in my grill, instead of cursing them to an eternity of zombiedom I’ll just steal all their toilet paper when they aren’t looking and make some art.

What am I going to use to wipe my ass now?

But don’t just take my word for it.  Go see it for yourself and let me know what you think.  It really is a great movie worth seeing.

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