We all know that this Halloween will not look like other Halloweens from years past. And yet, the month of October waits for us all the same. It is about time we put the spirit of Halloween back into that abandoned department store that we call the year of 2020. So to celebrate, we at Full Circle Cinema put together a curated, month-long series called Screen Screams. This time, we will be covering all things zombies. For this review, we look at the stop-motion animated film ParaNorman.
When it comes to zombie movies, there’s always some degree of social commentary. Because of this, writer/co-director Chris Butler thought zombies would be an appropriate way to express challenges kids face growing up. ParaNorman has this up its alley, as well as some fantastic stop-motion animation. But ultimately, that’s where the positives end.
ParaNorman traverses the area of childhood bullying as our main character Norman speaks with the dead and yet no one believes him. Everyone in his life ridicules him, including his dad who suggests he needs an intervention. With a witch, a few zombies, and some persistence, Norman sets out to end a 300-year-old practice with kindness and understanding.
ParaNorman just feels like another kids movie about being yourself, with a subtle twist of zombies. So if that’s your cup of tea, I have absolute faith this is your movie. But it really just doesn’t catch my eye in anything other than the stop-motion animation. The technology used to create the animation is superb, and it goes back to my love of items like Wallace & Gromit where the intricacies of the animation can really just draw you in.
The plot of ParaNorman is fairly simple, which works from a children’s perspective. But there’s nothing here for the adults watching to really keep them focused. There’s a terror lurking in the town, but there are people preventing the terror from spreading. There’s a mean older sister in the family that ignores Norman, goes to rescue him, ends up on the fun journey to solve the problem of the witch, and ends up standing up for her younger brother. It’s all very basic, and the zombies do nothing to really set it apart. The characters, while animated well, don’t feel emotionally connective.
Knowing this film is from the same animation studio as Coraline, it’s interesting to see the growth in technology, and how different the two movies are. But where Coraline draws you in with the voice acting, there’s really nothing in the voices that keep your attention. And in an animated film that draws on much longer than it needs to, the voice acting really needs to keep you involved.
Ultimately, ParaNorman is a fine children’s movie. But it’s really nothing more than that, unfortunately. With some unique characteristics in its stop-motion animation, it can make you look at the technical aspects. But other than that, it really sticks towards a simple plot, that’s been done before and will be done again. – Katie Gilstrap
Paranorman is available on Netflix and VOD.