PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

August 17, 2012

“ParaNorman” is silly and scary fun

Sean McBride
The Port Arthur News

— The new movie “ParaNorman” is a delightfully creepy family film that should particularly appeal to young boys. It has some fun humor, some icky scares and a superb visual style that is indicative of an animation crew that put a lot of heart and soul into making the movie. I expect this film to become one of those standard DVDs that parents pull out every Halloween whenever they throw a mildly-spooky sleepover for their kids.

Using stop-motion animation, “ParaNorman” tells the story of a young boy, Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who is living in the town of Blithe Hollow—a town that has been cursed by a witch some 300 years ago. Norman has the ability to see and speak to ghosts, which makes him the only one who understands that his town is in grave danger. That would be “grave,” as in, zombies are rising from their graves and gathering to attack the town. It’s up to Norman and a few others to save Blithe Hollow from utter destruction.

That’s actually a pretty good plot for a horror film, one that might cause legitimate scares if the zombies weren’t animated and kind of silly-looking. Parents should be warned that younger kids might have some issues with the scary stuff, but I think that the filmmakers have found the sweet spot for the middle school set with a story that will get the kids anxious but not traumatized.

In that respect, “ParaNorman” looks and reminds me of “Coraline,” another animated film that was a nice mix of scary fun and visual flourish. The animators here let their imaginations run amok, turning the zombies and the other ghoulies into truly memorable images. For that reason alone, it’s worth seeing the film in 3D, although I suspect that “ParaNorman” is destined to be a DVD favorite rather than a theatrical hit.

That’s a shame because “ParaNorman” is a surprise gem of a movie, inexplicably buried at the tail end of the summer movie season. I will admit that this isn’t one of those Pixar films that are equally appealing to both kids and grownups, but parents will appreciate that their kids are getting a scary and funny film with some nice messages about the consequences of bullying and intolerance for people who are different. Horror fans will appreciate that there are some subtle homages to other horror films buried within this film, and general movie fans will love that “ParaNorman” is a heartfelt and lovingly crafted family flick that turns out to be one of my favorite films of the summer.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@kboi2.com.