Friday, September 7, 2012


Paranorman - ***

Directed by: Chris Butler, Sam Fell

Starring (voices): Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin

Review: Bullying is a hot topic right now.  It’s really funny how our society works sometimes.  Bullying, in its many shapes and forms, has existed for generations.  Yet, all of the sudden, in 2012 we are throwing up our hands and saying “this isn’t right.”  It almost feels like American in this still young decade has just realized what was going on.  “Wait a second, this has been happening?  Kids are getting tortured by other kids?” 

Where was this movement when I was high school?  We didn’t have YouTube so nobody could film anything and then post it, but it was definitely pretty rampant.  When I got on the newspaper when I was a senior I remember I wanted to write an article about bullying at our school.  When talking to my journalism teacher/editor about it, he said it would be very difficult.  When I asked what he thought teachers would say when I approached them his response was “I think they’ll tell you don’t think it exists and it’s not a problem.”

And that’s just it.  Bullying has been everyone’s dirty little secret forever.  It’s that thing that goes on right under the surface that nobody deals with because you know that eventually everybody grows up and this stuff magically goes away.^

^Or at least takes on a more passive-aggressive, non-confrontational form.  For that matter, as we grow older it becomes easier to stand up to such methods.  The idea of the George McFly versus Biff dynamic doesn’t really exist anymore, and if it does it’s changed dramatically.  Mainly in a much less quantity of noogies.

Bullying is equally bad on both sides of the gender line, but as a male I can only speak to that side and my own experiences.  There are two responses to bullying.  One is to just ignore it and hope it goes away, the other is to tell the person being bullied to “stand up for yourself.”  Never are consequences of any of this mentioned or discussed.  Nobody really knows how to stop bullying and it’s an unfortunate reality of the human existence.  Even as that’s the case, it doesn’t mean its right in any facet.

Norman in ‘Paranorman’ is a victim of bullying.  Every day he goes into school is preceded with a big deep breath to allow him to undertake the abuse he’s about to receive.  Norman sees the world differently.  He has something that could be seen as a skill in the right light.  Matter of fact, there are those who slowly realize the potential of the skill that Norman possesses.

What takes longer is for Norman to realize that he has a skill.  Norman can see dead people and interact with them.  Unfortunately, beaten down so hard is Norman that he has begun to think like everyone else.  Eventually if you are told you are something long enough, you begin to agree with people.  He doesn’t see this as a talent but a burden.  It hinders his relationship with his parents, even their relationship with each other, and affects his ability to have friends.  But its part of who he is and he won’t deny it.

As Norman slowly starts to come along he is told that he has a singular importance in the story of his town.  Seeing dead people is not only a talent, but it’s completely necessary to save everyone from a curse that has befell his town for exactly 300 years.

Norman’s ability to talk to dead people mean that he is the only one with the ability to keep the witch at bay from terrorizing their town.  If Norman does it right then he will have a purpose that will keep the town safe for years to come, even if nobody knows it. 

Where ParaNorman excels is in its message.  Bullying is wrong, everybody is unique, and all talents are valued.  While the movie sometimes decides to beat you over with the head with that knowledge, we have to keep in mind that this is a kids film and such things are necessary to be understood.

Speaking of it being a kids film, some of it was pretty scary for the younger set.  I’d say if your kid was six or so you’re probably ok, but my 3-year-old niece was screaming and hiding her eyes during it.  That said, she also couldn’t stop talking about how much she liked it, even though it was so scary.

Of all the non-live action mediums I think that stop motion go is my absolute favorite.  It provides a richness and adds elements you just can’t get with others.  It is for this reason that I even went to see Paranorman in the first place.  If you are a fan of the genre you definitely won’t be disappointed.

Overall, I would say this is worth your time, especially if you have young kids or are a young kid at heart.

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