Spoiler warning! If you don’t want to know about the plot, take your braaaaaains elsewhere.
As we were leaving the theatre after ParaNorman, I found myself saying “I dunno” a lot. Which I suppose could some up my entire point of view of this movie: I really don’t know how I feel about it.
Let’s start with the things I know are good:
Visually, this movie is fantastic. There is so much detail in the stop motion that you don’t usually see from regular animation. Even little character details, like a teacher having an arm brace just because, or someone smearing their nail polish and actually having it look wet, go a long way to create an amazing world.
I also really like that this movie doesn’t treat its younger audience like complete idiots. Within the first ten minutes, Norman tells his parents he’s been watching “violence and sex” on television. There’s nothing too racy or violent in the movie, but it also doesn’t ignore the fact that kids tend to have a wider knowledge of life in general than parents give them credit for.
Speaking of which, if you go on the IMDB page for this movie, everyone is up in arms about a one-liner at the end regarding a main character being gay. I don’t know why I expect more of message boards when I know they’ll disappoint me, but… let’s move on to the things I’m not so sure about.
While the dialogue is very funny, the plot itself is pretty average at first. There are plenty of stories out there about the outcast who has to save everyone. Norman, who can talk to the dead, must stop seven zombies from rising from the grave due to a witch’s curse in order to save a town that doesn’t understand him.
It’s when the zombies rise (and obviously they do, since it would be a boring movie if they didn’t) that the plot goes from being pretty standard to being… I dunno.
Norman’s little town in Massachusetts has a history of hanging witches, and while you go through the movie believing that the woman they hanged was the real deal (a statue of her even looks like the stereotypical scary witch), it turns out she was a little girl with the same gifts as Norman. She cursed those who convicted her to walk the earth as sentient zombies—they don’t want to eat brains, and are totally aware of who they are and what they did… and that’s where the movie takes a weird turn for me, because I don’t think they handled the interaction between Norman and those involved in the curse as well as they could have.
Villains motivated by vengeance who eventually learn that it can be just as wrong as what was inflicted on them in the first place are also nothing new and it’s a good lesson to learn… still, there’s just something strange about hearing Norman repeat “they did a terrible thing” over and over again to a child who was hanged. You’re damn right they did a terrible thing, and I’m not totally comfortable with the sympathetic portrayal of the zombies. Not to say that there isn’t something compelling about vile characters learning about their mistakes, but I do think there should have been more emphasis on their guilt and shame instead of just a few shots of the judge looking sad.
I would recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of stop motion and creepy things in general. Like I said, the dialogue is very funny, the animation was absolutely fantastic, and I certainly don’t feel my time was wasted in seeing it.
….I just dunno about the plot.