Warning: Contains spoilers***
I first discovered this film when my family watched it in the living room of our house. I didn’t see the whole thing until the second time on my own. However, I saw enough that it caught my interest.
“Paranorman” portrays a young boy, named Norman Babcock, who can talk to the dead. He is the only one who can see ghosts. However, others don’t understand him and they think he is crazy… except for a heavy kid named Neil, who gets excited by Norman’s special powers.
But Norman is given a task to stop a witch’s curse from raising the dead. He fails and the zombies go to town. The community tries to hurt the zombies until Norman understands them and discovers that they are not trying to hurt anybody.
I enjoyed the movie enough that I watched it over and over again on my own. In fact, “Paranorman” is one of the few movies I can watch a lot in a short period of time.
And now, what I admired about the film:
1: The humor
Despite the dark tone, the humor added was done well. I loved the scene of the guy waiting for his snack at the vending machine while the zombies come closer to him. The dialogue also expresses humor effectively. It’s especially funny in the second half of the film.
2: The plot twist revealing the “witch”
I appreciated the twist on how the “witch” was just a miserable little girl that nobody had understood and had been executed for “witchcraft”. That plays well into what people should be expected to know today. Obviously, there were never wicked witches who flew on broomsticks and cackled in real life. However, the accusation of people being witches throughout history and getting punished for it actually happened in history.
Of course, people have changed then and try to support those that others constantly miscomprehend. I adored how Norman tried to talk to the girl, called Agatha, to get her to stop the jinx. After the fight scene, the next one calmed down and showed Agatha’s true innocence.
3: The historical facts about Puritans
Although this is frowned upon in storytelling if overdone, just the right amount that the plot needs will make it work. In “Paranorman”, the facts about the Pilgrims and their culture engaged my interest in the film even more. I was reminded facts that I had almost forgotten myself, like when people found guilty of witchcraft were no longer considered humans.
Now onto the parts I believe could have been portrayed better:
Despite the humor in the plot and characterization, I found certain elements to be unbelievable. While that didn’t bother me much, I was surprised when I discovered that “Paranorman” was based off a book. Book rules are another story, but characters do have to behave like real people. Unless the movie changed pretty much everything from the book, I feel that the story and characters could have been more believable.
For example, Norman walks to school for minutes by himself, at age 11. If the story took place in the 70’s or earlier, then that would have been believable. However, it takes place around the time it was released. If you let your eleven-year-old child walk to school in a city alone, you could get in trouble with CPS.
Another example was when Salma barely reacted to Norman thinking that the zombies were about to eat him. She just sighed and answered his question about finding out where the witch was buried. Even if you didn’t care about your classmate, wouldn’t you be scared if he or she called you and told you about a zombie currently attacking him or her? I certainly would.
2: The character stereotypes
Norman’s mother is more gentle and shows more effort in understanding him than his father, who is rougher and refuses to comprehend what he goes through. His older sister, Courtney, gets annoyed with his actions, talks on the phone a lot, and talks with the stereotypical teenage girl language. Doesn’t anyone find these clichéd at this point?
3: The mildly mature content
I used to think “Paranorman” was rated PG-13 due to the language, mildly sexual terms, and dark tone. It is actually PG, like almost every children’s movie is these days. The others may have crude humor or mild language (not cursing, but words like “idiot”), but they are not usually like “Paranorman”. I don’t know if a child under 12 should watch “Paranorman” unless they are considered very mature for his or her age.
Overall, though, I would rate “Paranorman” 5 out of 5 stars. I still enjoyed it very much and hope to watch it again soon.