Thursday, February 20, 2014

ParaNorman [2012]

Huh. Take a look at the tagline on the poster, 'You don't become a hero by being normal'. I get their point, but I can think of a lot of heroes who were 'normal'. Emmet from The Lego Movie, Sam Gamgee from Lord of the Rings, Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, shall I go on? I could, but that's not what I'm here for.
Today, while the rest of the family was fetching rabbits (long story), me and my 'lil Bro stayed home and used the Netflix instant view to our advantage, because we are sick and when you're sick you can stay home and watch movies, it's the unwritten law of the universe.
I picked ParaNorman because it's of the stop-motion Macabre genre, which I have been becoming increasingly fond of. I've heard quite mixed things about it, and this review is going to be quite mixed. Spoilers await ahead too, but because this movie is two years old I'm not going to bother with my little warning signs.
ParaNorman is the story of young Norman, who sees and speaks to the dead. Because of this, he's an outcast, mocked and shunned by the town, misunderstood at home. I'm not such a big fan of the Misunderstood Hero type story, but I don't hate it either. Odd Thomas is an outcast (Oddie can also see ghosts, by the way), as is Jean Valjean. But, poorly executed, this trope can be slightly irritating. ParaNorman doesn't exactly butcher it, but I was rolling my eyes every time an adult came on screen, because literally ALL the adults in ParaNorman are useless at best. I know that the major Aesop Moral of this movie was to not be afraid of what you don't understand, and that had to be illustrated, but I don't understand how all the adults in town are all this level of stupid bigot. Irritating! Why is it so unfashionable to have responsible adults as in stories where a kid is the main character? Serves as a reminder of how our present day generation believes itself so much more superior to past ones.
Anyway, Norman finds that it's up to him to put a stop to the annual Curse of the Witch. The Curse of the Witch was first placed upon the town by a vengeful witch, and it causes the dead to rise from their graves. The spell has been kept at bay for 300 years, by reading a book of fairy tales aloud at the place the witch was buried. However, Norman can't find the witches burial place, and so all hell breaks loose. Almost literally.
Plot wise, ParaNorman is pretty dang good. Not the most original of movies, but it's got a great premise, and an unexpected (somewhat distressing, I should probably add) twist. It's the characters (and some aforementioned thematic elements) that deflate my enthusiasm.
Though they are all more or less redeemed in the end, every character who isn't Norman is a one-dimentional stereotype. You have the Fat Sidekick (Neil), the Bratty Teenage Sister (Courtney), Goth Bully (Alvin), Dumb Jock (Mitch), the kind, yet passive mother, and of course! Everyone's favorite, the Mean Patriarch. None of these characters really grow though the story, and no, I don't count last minute changes of heart as character development. The only one I find (sort of)  realistic is Courtney. She is by no means a layered or complex character, but it makes sense that even if she's annoyed by her little brother, she would still defend him when it was important. Still though, until that moment, there was no indication that Courtney was anything but a stain upon humanity.
On the positive side, the production of the ParaNorman was amazing. Not just the puppets and scenery, but also the cinematography. I love it when non-live action films have stunning cinematography, and this is a really good example of that. It's almost worth all the crude references and tired clichés. Also makes you wonder what kind of movie this would be if the makers had put as much love into developing the world and side-characters as they had put into creating it.

The Verdict: B-
ParaNorman has terrific cinematography and a good premise. It's different from a lot of other movies, but sadly, in some ways is just like them. Despite marketing, this is not a movie for kids. I watched it with my teenage brother, but I wouldn't really recommend it for viewers under 13.

Later amigos,

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