Don't worry, folks. The dead bodies talk so that makes it okay.
*SPOILERS* BEWARE! BEWARE!
PARANORMAN brings a slightly darker edge to children's mainstream animation. In no way is it as dark as kid's movies back in the eighties. Remember those? Remember the NEVERENDING STORY when that large werewolf would run around with it's huge teeth and damnable nightmarish yellow eyes? The horrible thing talked too. Or what about THE DARK CRYSTAL with the giant black crabs that broke through walls from everywhere dispelling any notion that you were going to get a decent night sleep. SECRET OF NIMH, anyone? Back in my day kids movies gave you nightmares and that's they way we liked them. They were a little more adult filled with imagination that wasn't afraid to get a little dark from time to time. Nowadays we get some good animated films (Usually from PIXAR) but they are all free of any imagery that would freak out the wussiest of brats. PARANORMAN comes close to bringing back some of those kinds of disturbing moments but not quite. It is a good movie but not great. Why do they always have to put some boring moral lesson into these movies? Why do they always have to go the "smart" story route. Why can't this be a simple story about a boy who fights zombies and becomes a hero because of his extreme knowledge of horror movies and his macabre ability to communicate with the dead? Oh, well at least it is not a musical.
PARANORMAN starts off great with our protagonist Norman watching a zombie movie on t.v. We see that he is totally obsessed with zombies having posters of them all over his wall with a zombie alarm clock and a zombie tooth brush and such. His family thinks he is weird because he still talks to grandma who has been dead for a few months or so. As he goes to school he talks to all the ghosts that he sees along the way. The town folk see him as weird too. At school he is bullied and treated like an outcast but he befriends the fat kid and blah-blah-blah zombie stuff happens. We know all this stuff already. What about the zombies? Well for one they are risen from the dead by a witches curse. We find out that they were (sigh) Puritans. There were seven of them that stood witness at the witch's trial. Now right there we already know that they unjustifiably sentenced some poor girl to death for witchcraft because that is what the Puritans did back in the old days. At least according to the History Channel they did. How uncreative is that? Puritans and witches curses? How about a leaky barrel of toxic waste rolling through a cemetery and some Butt-Rock Hair Metal music to get our zombie carnage started? I miss you, the eighties. *Sob*
You see once you find out that the town celebrates it's famous historical witch trial we already know the whole story. It becomes a little boring. You already know that the witch was just some innocent person that was wrongly convicted. Wait a minute. Why can she put a witches curse on you even though she really isn't a witch at all? That doesn't make any sense. Either she was a witch or she wasn't. If she wasn't she shouldn't be able to put a witches curse on anybody. We find out that she was a young girl Norman's age who could also speak to the dead which made her an outcast. Does that mean Norman can cast curses too and light up into electricity? The movie doesn't say. As it turns out the zombies are not bad they are just trying to get the curse ended with Norman's help. They are sorry for what they did. Eh, what can I say? It's a kid's movie. The girl at the trial says she was "just playing". That is fine and all but the fact that she can cast a curse almost legitimizes the conviction. That isn't right. Maybe later if she had lived she would eventually become an all powerful witch able to cast spells on those she simply didn't like. You kind of shot yourself in the foot with that one didn't ya, PARANORMAN?
Yes, the story is smart (for the most part) with a good message about forgiveness and not to be a bully. Yes, there are some clever moments like when the Puritan zombies find themselves the outcasts and hunted by the town's people. It is very ironic. There are some nods to classic horror movies most of which I missed because I'm not a smart guy with a keen eye for detail. I love this kind of stop motion animation and the colors and scenery are outstanding. I just didn't find the humor all that funny. I also didn't like the fact that the ghosts Norman talks too disappear once the story starts to get rolling. I would have thought that all these ghosts would start to float around and help Norman out when the zombies show up but they don't. He doesn't have a relationship with them. It would have been cool if they were the only friends that Norman had. They could have helped him when no one alive would. That would have been cool. But instead Norman's gift for talking to the dead is only helpful because only he can talk to the zombies and only he can talk to the dead girl who is not a witch but can cast witch's curses. Its not as creative of a movie as I would have liked. I would have liked to have seen the ghosts have more of an impact on the main story. Instead they are just there at the beginning to let us, the audience, know that Norman talks to dead people.
If you have kids that love monster movies then I highly recommend this movie. They will get a kick out of all the spooky scenery, ghosts, and severed limb humor. And kids aren't too smart so they won't see the story twists coming from a mile away. I know I am a little down on this one but I did really like this movie and I want to see it do well. Horror fans should love it. I just wasn't blown away by it. If I had seen this movie back when I was ten then this probably would have been one of my favorite films of all time just because it had zombies in it. Unfortunately I am old now and I hate everything. I had high expectations for this movie. I rarely go see kids movies in the theater. When I do it is because I am expecting something great. PARANORMAN could have been great. It trips up with having to tell an overly complicated story about forgiving one another and stuff. Why can't a kid's movie be about a bunch of crazy crap happening with no real moral message whatsoever? Remember THE GOONIES? It is nice to see that there are a couple of similar spooky kid movies coming out soon. I am looking forward to FRANKENWEENIE and HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA. I will be seeing those as well. Next time however I will keep my expectations low.