For some reason I feel inclined to be defensive about this one. I want to pepper this review with qualifiers like, “I know it’s a kids’ movie, but…” and “It isn’t horror, but…”
But I’m not going to do that. Because even if a film is aimed at “families” and even if it has a PG rating, that doesn’t disqualify it from being really, genuinely good.
ParaNorman is a movie about a kid named Norman who sees ghosts. Nobody takes poor Norman seriously. They brand him a freak, and he takes crap from his family, the other kids at school, everybody.
Until one day (naturally) his crazy uncle tells him that only he can stop an evil witch’s curse that will cause the dead to rise from their graves and do whatever it is that reanimated corpses do.
So with an unlikely group of heroes (consisting of his cheerleader sister, his overweight friend Neil, Neil’s jock brother Mitch, and the school bully Alvin), Norman sets out to stop the curse and save the town.
Pretty cut-and-dried plot. It could be virtually any horror film (and the filmmakers are gleefully aware of that). It could also be Hocus Pocus. Thankfully, ParaNorman is far better than your average horror flick. And Sarah Jessica Parker is nowhere to be seen.
It’s difficult to say much more without spoiling things, but the humor in ParaNorman (and at the end of the day, it’s a comedy) is actually funny. Every single character is genuinely likable, including the big baddy (who is actually tear-jerkingly sympathetic).
The movie is super endearing, and really, it goes a long, long way to explaining why I’m so interested in the supernatural in the first place. It doesn’t all have to be bleak, terrible, violent, tragic shit. Or maybe more accurately, even when it is those things, it can actually conceal something much simpler and much better than what you initially think.
The best thing is that, at its core, the film is about tolerance–not only for people who are different, but also for the ignorant people who learn too late about how ignorant they really are. Forgiveness is a big part of the message, something that’s in pretty short supply these days.
ParaNorman isn’t without its flaws, but they’re too minimal to bother with. This is a very good movie, and it’s on Netflix. See it.