Chris Butler is emerging in the film industry, starting off as a storyboard artist for “Corpse Bride” and making his way up to storyboard supervisor for “Coraline.” Now with “ParaNorman,” the comedic and ghoulish essences of both films carry over perfectly into his debut as both a writer and director.
“ParaNorman” takes place in the small colonial town of Blithe Hollow, eerily similar to Salem, Mass. and famous for its historical witchcraft trials. Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a young boy that rarely talks to strangers or classmates, but is often found talking to the dead. The town knows Norman as that weird kid and never gives him a chance. His family is fed up with his ramblings about the dead and wishes Norman would just be a normal boy.
The closest thing he has to a best friend is Neil (voiced by Tucker Albrizzi), a classmate and fellow loser that is also consistently bullied. Although Norman prefers being alone (or with the dead), Neil tries hard at becoming his best friend. Neil is the only one in the town that doesn’t think Norman is weird, and tells Norman bullies must exist, and that if Norman were bigger and stupider he would probably be a bully too.
Norman’s life parallels that of the “evil witch” that was tried years ago in Blithe Hollow, and the townspeople act with the same ignorance that started the whole thing. Throughout the movie, Norman’s mission is to stop a famous curse that the Blithe Hollow witch cast on the town centuries ago.
“ParaNorman” isn’t directly advertised as a children’s movie, but it did receive a PG rating for “scary action and images” as well as “some rude humor and language.” As a movie aimed mainly towards a younger audience, the movie is heavily shrouded with a life lesson on equality and how people should treat one another, a lesson that is repeated throughout the movie on different levels.
It starts off with Norman and Neil being freaks that are treated differently and continues with the townspeople treating the zombies like normal human beings. For any adult watching this movie though, the message of treating others how you would like to be treated is a little grueling and drones on. The message is a little bit much by the end of the movie, but the story is still fun and humorous.
Though the story focuses on grim themes and idealistic equality, the film is filled with humor — some light, some dark. While some of the jokes are aimed for a younger crowd, there is a decent amount of humor for older moviegoers.
Overall, the movie was well written and amusing. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys animated movies and anything related to the paranormal.Contact Sarah Osterheld.