Thursday, September 13, 2012

ParaNorman: Late Movie Review


Cast: Kodi Smit- McPhee, Anna Kendrick

Writer: Chris Butler

Directors: Chris Butler, Sam Fell

***'s out of Four.

This movie has a strong opening, with a scene that shows a young woman being chased by a zombie.  What I love best about this moment is the obvious influence of late '70's and early '80's B horror films.  It had an electronic John Carpenter like score and it featured shabby film production footage as well.  I only wish the whole movie were done this way, but it would have gotten too many complaints from people who don't know about those types of films.  Still, a great opening for a movie whose momentum loses steam after an hour, but does manage to deliver a heartfelt ending.

The zombie movie that opened up this tale is being watched by our hero, Norman, (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and his Grandma (Elaine Stritch).  Nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that she has been dead for several months.  You see, Norman has the ability to see and speak to the dead.  Instead of being freaked out and scared by it like that kid from "The 6th Sense", Norman sees no problem with his new powers.  However, he does feel incredibly lonely, because no one wants to be his friend.  Hell, even his own father (Jeff Garlin) won't give him a chance to prove anything, just blaming his behavior on his wife's side of the family.  It turns out that Norman's uncle (John Goodman) can also speak to ghosts and he finds out that there is an evil witch who is planning to raise the dead and attack the town.  Based on weird images Norman sees, he agrees to help stop her.

After the premise is set, the movie goes through the usual tropes that are associated with these kind of movies.  There's a chase scene, an investigation scene that turns into a chase, and the big reveal where the main character learns something about the villain that he never knew.  This is not a diss on the actual product itself, but when the movie opens with a scene that mocks these cliched elements, one would think that the filmmakers would avoid that trap.  Still, the movie never felt slow and it does have a lot of references to "Halloween" and "Night Of The Living Dead" and I really enjoyed that.

The voice work is great.  Kodi Smit McPhee is obviously doing the same character he did in "Let Me In", but he has a little bit more backbone than that character.  Tucker Albrizzi and Casey Affleck are both good in the roles of Neil (Norman's first and only friend) and Mitch (Neil's brother).  There is a reveal of Mitch's character that I wasn't expecting, but it works perfectly.  The sister, played by Anna Kendrick, was alright, but she really didn't add much weight to that role.  I'm sure if we could have seen her real facial expressions it would have made a huge difference.  For me, the best voice actor in this was Jodelle Ferland who played both the evil witch and the young girl.  She just has this ability to be both very scary, and be scared, and I fully bought into both performances.

The cinematography was done by Tristan Oliver who also worked on " The Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Chicken Run".  The score I mentioned earlier was done by Jon Brion, who has contributed to "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Magnolia".  It mixes in both an orchestral score and an elctronic one, and I wish they had stuck with one or the other.  Daft Punk can mix both elements in and have it sound fantastic, but this one wasn't sure what score should be mainly used.  I still give Mr. Brion points for trying something new.

"ParaNorman" is a great kids' movie to watch with the great horror buff inside you.


  1. I agree. It's visually stunning, but the plot was lacking and like you said, ran really slow at times. Really wish it was better than it is, but it's still a solid film. Don't think it's much for kids though, especially the scenes featuring the witch and her story.

  2. Thanks nick. I can understand why the Witches story might be a bit too strong for really young kids but any one over the age of 7 should be Ok with this flick

  3. Fine review Vern. This flick seemed to have plenty of fun with itself and made me laugh more than I actually expected. Problem is, it does take awhile to get it’s story going but once it does get going, it’s a fun little ride.

    1. Thanks for the comment Dan. I'm kind of sad about Hotel Transelvania after seeing the previews of that. What do you think?

  4. Nice work Vern. I am instantly drawn into anything Affleck is involved with, so look forward to seeing this; it looks so visually stunning, even if it's light on narrative.

    1. It does got into some darker territory but it's still a lot of fun. Thanks for the comments Octopusluke

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