"If you were bigger and more stupid, you'd probably be a bully too."
Paranorman (2012) is a stop-motion animated film from Laika studios, this is their follow-up to their premier feature Coraline (2009).
Norman is an outsider with no friends and a special ability, he can see ghosts. He lives in Blithe Hollow (based on modern day Salem, Massachusetts) where thanks to his special ability he is the only one who can prevent an ancient witch's curse to prevent the undead from coming back to life.
The voice acting in this film is a good mix of B-stars and amateur children (that don't suck) which evens out to an all-around good voice cast. Actually my biggest complaint is probably that because these aren't big name stars most of the cast will sound really familiar and probably bug you the entire film as you're trying to put a face to the voice.
The comedy in this film is really pretty funny. There's lots of really funny lines that just crack me up. There's actually so much humor that it almost seems inconsistent, like I feel they could have actually cut some of the jokes to make the funnier ones stand out better. And it's worth mentioning that there's a wide range of humor here too from puns to gross-out to slapstick and situational. This seems to do it all.
I really like almost all the characters in this film, I especially like our circumstantial group of protagonist that are only working together because of happenstance. They're all pretty solid characters, especially Norman who seems very well planned out and based on someone's own personal experiences being an outsider growing up.
I like how simple and good this story is. It's also a good mystery, that revolves itself in a pleasant and satisfying way. I also like how this film incorporates horror movie themes and tropes in a new and original way that we haven't seen before.
Also the film seems a bit long winded for how simple the story is. I don't know if the stakes are just never high enough or what (it's truthfully a little hard to put my finger on) but it "feels" longer than it should. Also because the story is so simple it might be able to figure out the mystery before the end of the film, which can take some of the interest out of it, but at the very least the messages of the end will be worthwhile and not super predictable (more on that in a second).
I really love the cinematography in this film, which is not something I say for animated films too often. The filmmakers really don't seem restricted by the miniature stop-motion medium. There's lots of beautiful shot choices combined with brilliant camera moves like long tracking shots and other complicated camera moves that must have taken so much planning considering the medium. I love this shot right at the beginning that starts with tracking with Norman as he walks down the street then the camera pans around him and once it passes his face we again follow him down the street but this time through his perspective with all the ghosts and dead people he sees on a daily basis.
The animation in this film is top-notch. (We're talking Pixar good, though possibly better since it's stop-motion rather than computer generated.) I think my favorite thing about the animation in this film is everyone's different walks really say something about their personalities and I think the animators had some extra fun animating the zombie walks. A testament to how good the animation in this movie is, is that a lot of people thought it was computer generated rather than stop-motion! On a related note, probably the thing that really makes Laika stand out as a studio than all the other animation studios is their incredible attention to detail on such minor things like lamps that sit in the background for only one scene. This attention to detail and care really comes through in the film (even if it's just a subconscious feeling that immerses you deeper in the world) and it gives you plenty to gaze upon and stare at on subsequent viewings.
And lastly I have to mention how excellent this film is at addressing its themes. I think this is the best film or anything that I've ever seen that addresses bullying. I love how this film's message isn't to try and stop bullying (like we've heard time and time again) but instead the film takes the higher road and says that we may never be able to stop bullying instead you just have to deal with it. Our characters learn to deal with their problems through the bad experiences, and not through adult interference or anything else. This is a very strong message for a weird little kids film.
Paranorman (2012) is a great film for kids that incorporates lots of macabre and horror movie elements in a way that we really haven't seen yet.
That is all for this year's 31 Nights of Macabre Movies, I hope you enjoyed my selections and maybe even found something new to check out! Until Next year, Spooky watching!!
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