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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Aug 23: ParaNorman


Aug 23: ParaNorman

"A misunderstood boy, takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse."
Directed by: Chris Butler & Sam Fell, Rated: PG, 93 minutes

There's a lot to be said about the world of 3D these days. A lot of people agree that the "gimmick" is simply a way to make more money and ride the cash wave of a fad while others genuinely think that it's the way of the future for film. I, on the other-hand, find 3D to be too distracting and not worthwhile. However, I have one exception to that idea and that is that 3D looks amazing with animated movies. ParaNorman, the newest "cartoon" to employ the use of 3D uses it to great effect and only strengthens my theory. It's a beautifully dark movie that relishes in its visuals and the 3D lets the audience truly enjoy what's playing out on screen. ParaNorman is a stop-motion animated film and with those pesky glasses sitting on your nose, you can pay attention to the closest of details so many animators worked at putting together.

Stay until after the credits for a quick peek at the actual character model creation, it's ridiculously impressive. 

Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a regular young boy with quite unusual abilities. For as long as he can remember, he can see the dead, and converses with them on a daily basis. Be it with his grandma, whose ghost lingers in the house, or a bunch of old ghouls in town, Norman is always saying "Hello" to whoever he sees. Of course, this is looked upon as something strange and his classmates and even his own family ostracize the kid because he can see the dead. Norman's town, Blithe Hollow, looks down upon him as well, but when a witch's curse is set to bring the dead back to life in that very town, it's up to him (and only him) to save it. As his fellow townspeople slowly realize the strange and paranormal exist, he's aided by his new friend, Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), a bully named Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), his sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick), and Neil's brother Mitch (Casey Afleck). Zombies, brought to life (or death?) by the evil witch invade his town and it's up to him to figure out a way to stop the curse. While ParaNorman's story sounds fun right off the bat, it's actually pretty dramatic and even shocking at times. Norman is completely alone in his own little world and the ridicule he suffers is almost hard to watch. The animators did a terrific job capturing his sadness and it really makes you feel bad for the kid. Also, at the heart of the story, involving the witch, her story is also dramatic and extremely depressing. These two parts are just some of the reasons why the film is not meant for kids. 

Toilet paper zombies are just the beginning...

As mentioned, ParaNorman's success is in its visuals. Laika Animation Studios, the people behind Coraline, return to the stop-motion world with finesse and beauty. Each scene is rich in detail and the character models look amazing. It's quite a sight to behold and the 3D manages to capture it in further detail. Along with the incredible animation, ParaNorman also has one hell of a soundtrack featuring songs written by Jon Brion as well as Season of the Witch by Donavan. The film's climax has an incredible song that is very reminiscent of Clint Mansell's score in The Fountain, so you can only imagine how powerful the music is. However, as much of the film has been advertised towards kids, the visuals have moments of genuine terror and I would not recommend it for the young ones. A lot of the humor is pulled right from the trailers too, and if you think you can go into the film expecting laugh after laugh, you're going to have a bad time. The movie is ridiculously mature for something PG (and animated) and the main conflict of the story is more of a history lesson than anything else. But don't think that this is a flaw of the film, as it really is a strength, but go into it knowing full well that it's not a fun, whimsical, magical ride through a little animated town. 

If you think Coraline is freaky, ParaNorman is much more creepier. 

As much as I would love to go into more detail about the ParaNorman's plot, there's not much I can talk about without giving away crucial details. It's sad, I'll leave it at that but still manages to inspire you with its visuals. It's definitely worth seeing in theaters and I would highly recommend catching it in 3D if you have the chance. The voice talent involved in the film is perfect, and along with the previously mentioned cast members, John Goodman, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, and Bernard Hill also lend their voices to the film. I do wish that this film received a release closer to Halloween, but nonetheless, it at least put me in the mood for fall, which at this point of the summer cannot come soon enough. 

The Good:
incredible visuals that set the bar even higher in the world of animation as well a terrific soundtrack to accompany it
The Bad:
not as much a bad as it is an unexpected point, but the film packs a very mature story that has themes many adults would even find creepy (or sad)
The Ugly:
the thought that the plot central to the film has actually happened in our history and that the consequences of said plot point were really swept under the rug 

Overall: 7.8/10


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At August 23, 2012 at 12:05 PM , Blogger said...

I took my four year-old to see this and he loved it. Then again he is into scrary things and monsters so that may have helped.

Your review makes me wish I had seen the film in 3D.

I felt the films ending was a bit lame but otherwise I enjoyed this film quite a bit.

At August 23, 2012 at 7:55 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Yeah, I couldn't tell if the film was rushed or if it lacked depth because it really did wrap up a little quick.

At August 24, 2012 at 9:33 PM , Blogger Two Tickets For... said...

We both thought the 3D was phenomenal. We completely agree that with rare exception (like Prometheus) the only films you should see in 3D are animated ones.

Sarah wasn't so hot on the film because the darkened tone of it was not at all what she was expecting, but I thoroughly enjoyed it for many of the same reasons as you, Nick. Good review, man!


At August 24, 2012 at 9:52 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, A! (I'm testing that out too lol). It's certainly a tricky film to review as it really is more dramatic than anything else.

At August 25, 2012 at 12:09 PM , Anonymous Dan O. said...

Not the best animated film of the whole year, but still a very fun and entertaining kids flick that will make parents, kids laugh, and have the kids very, very scared. Maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe it’s a bad thing. All I know is that they will all be entertained. Nice review Nick.

At August 25, 2012 at 2:43 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Good point. And yes, it wasn't the best of the year but it was still really good.

At August 26, 2012 at 1:41 AM , Blogger Two Tickets For... said...

Just curious, Dan, but what do you think is the best animated film of the year then?

At August 26, 2012 at 10:16 AM , Blogger Nick said...

I'm curious too.. because isn't it really just between this and Brave?

At September 11, 2012 at 1:14 AM , OpenID TSC said...

Really looking forward to seeing this one. Great review

At September 11, 2012 at 8:20 AM , Blogger Nick said...

Thanks! I'd recommend seeing it in 3D as well.

At November 17, 2012 at 12:10 AM , OpenID daveexaminesmovies said...

See, I didn't see it in 3D, and didn't even think twice about the 3D aspect, but now that I do think about it, I just bet it was even more stunning. Also, how you were saying that 3D takes away, I agree and disagree. I think it takes away when they try to maximize on the 3D, make things pop out. I think it is fine when they do it just the opposite and make the theater screen act as a window that you are looking into. Popping out is unnatural for the eyes to understand, as the object popping out is also stuck on the edges of the screen, confusing your brain.

Also...I am prone to severe migraine headaches, and 3D is typically a major trigger for that. Talk about distracting from the movie!


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