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September 20, 2012

There are many different factors that I had to piece together for this review of ParaNorman. Numerous mishaps that took place while watching it were both compelling and highly agitating. I gained firsthand insight into the topic film’s changing nature, while also gaining a deep disdain for seeing films with younger audience members. As a cinematic experience, ParaNorman is incredible. As a movie going experience, it was awful; as a film, ParaNorman is meh.

ParaNorman follows the rough and tumble life of Norman, an 11-year-old clairvoyant who can see and speak to the dead. Unfortunately, while the dead are in high spirits and kinship with Norman, his real life peers including his family, school kids, and random town-folks look down on him for being a “freak.” Norman suddenly becomes plagued with the visions and knowledge that, if left untreated, the “witches curse” will haunt the town,  a plague that he must figure out why and how to stop it leading him to a gruesome, age-old discovery.

Cinematically ParaNorman is phenomenal and a must see 3D experience. The claymation is immaculate and the use of 3D allows the images to pop revealing the detailed creative process of the film. The characters look so realistic that I had the urge to reach up at the screen certain that my hand would meet the cool, smooth, almost wet feeling of their faces. Close ups reveal multicolored strands of hair, realistic textures of grained wood in trees, and the expressive brows and movements on the character’s animatronics Barbie doll type faces. The depth of field is beautifully perfected as images in the background are blurred and out of focus, making the images in the forefront pop out with stunning realism and clarity. Scenes are so beautifully put together that it’s mind-boggling, such as when the witches aura manifests in the sky appearing to flow like scarves blowing in the wind. Even the sound in ParaNorman is noteworthy, as it is almost as textured as the film’s visuals. In certain parts of the film, the stereophonic sound arises from the rear speakers before blasting out in all, giving the full effect of a submersible experience.

Now although watching ParaNorman  in 3D in theaters is incredible, as a movie it’s just good, not great. While the writing is wickedly clever, at times the film comes off too smart for its own good. Sight gags are humorously used throughout,  but most of the humor derives from biting social commentary and ironic situations. When the zombies awake from the dead in search of Norman the town turns into a panicked state. However, it’s the zombies who quickly become afraid as they scan the town and are confronted with technology and images of the slobbish behavior of its people. The town doesn’t take too kindly to their appearance and a mob is quickly created chasing the beings into frightful hiding. The reactions of the town people are priceless as one beautifully constructed scene reveals the dilemma of a man waiting on his vending machine puffs while a group of zombies begin to corner him. Another scene shows the aftermath of the rioting on the news with the newscaster calling the events the result of a “bizarre tornado,” a jab at the discrepancies of media reporting.

These moments are great, however, viewers have to endure the unlikable masses of townspeople we meet for most of the film. To fully feel Norman’s pain of solitude with his own kind, the script makes everyone either spitefully unaccepting of his differences or so weak that others can physically be forced to stop associating with Norman. All of the characters are morons possessing little to no redeeming qualities until the film’s last few minutes when character development is necessary to advance the plot. Sure the stupidity works for great jokes: like when a Norman’s sister Courtney flirtatiously tells a brawny character, “you must use free weights because your deltoids are amazing,” to which he responds, “I’ve never used deltoids in my life. You can test me.” These scenes hold their own, however, the redundancy of character’s ignorance and stupidity gets irritating largely because the film becomes stagnant for a while due to everyone refusing to listen to the only person with answers.

Perhaps a film that requires such attention to witty repertoire and irony of this sort shouldn’t be aimed at young children, which leads to the painful movie going experience I endured. My boyfriend and I saw ParaNorman on a Friday night and were relieved that there was only about 11 people in our theater. Yet somehow five of those 11 nearly ruined the film for me. When I didn’t have to endure listening to some 9-year-old constantly ask his even louder mother what was going on and bitch about being scared, I had to listen to a trio of 12-year-olds talk about text messages they received and how big Norman’s ears were. Now, while I do think these careless outbursts is attributed to subpar parenting, I think overall the problem was that ParaNorman is too adult for kids. I can’t see how a child would be patient enough to both understand what is going on and also the lines being delivered. To make matters worse I was the only person shifting and loudly sighing in anger ready to flip over a chair in anger that these brats were ruining my experience while everyone else passively sat in complacency making me feel like the Hulk at age 60.

ParaNorman is good but I can’t imagine seeing it in 2D and fully enjoying it as much. My fear is that audiences will hold this film in much too high esteem because of its visuals, despite the one-dimensional characters that don’t develop because it’s part of the joke. ParaNorman comes off too mature to be a kid film yet too childish to be fully aimed at adults. Regardless, I highly suggest everyone see it while they can in theaters and become submersed in the experience, if the audience doesn’t ruin it first.

SEE IT. In theaters now.

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