Friday, February 1, 2013

ParaNorman

Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell.
Rated PG, 92 minutes.
Cast:

Kodi Smit-McPhee
Tucker Albrizzi
Jeff Garlin
Bernard Hill
Elaine Stritch
Tempestt Bledsoe
Jodelle Ferland
Ariel Winter


Norman Babcock (Smit-McPhee) is that kid, the one everyone else thinks is weird. They have good reason. After all, he has no problem telling people he talks to the dead. Though no one believes him, he really can. In fact, his most frequent companion is his long passed grandmother (Stritch) who watches TV with him. With no way of proving this, as you might imagine, his living family members are rather disturbed by his behavior. Soon enough, we learn Norman has an uncle, Mr. Prenderghast (Goodman), that has the same ability. When that uncle dies, he warns Norman that it is up to him to stop the curse. Of course, Mr. Prenderghast doesn't tell exactly what the curse is. Matters become rather urgent when zombies start climbing out of the local graveyard. Yes, everyone in town can actually see them. And yes, this is still a kiddie flick.

Like a lot of movies aimed at children, ParaNorman focuses on how an outcast becomes a hero. It just chooses to do so through much more macabre means. It traipses into horror's shallowest waters but never immerses itself. Terrifying the audience is off-limits. The characters on the screen are plenty scared, but their plight is handled with a good deal of levity. And the jokes actually work. Dialogue is often sharp, though it does lapse into the standard Disney Channel schtick of a big sister being mean to her brother on too many occasions.

Even without frights, ParaNorman still manages to create tension. Much of this is due to the fact there is quite a bit of mystery surrounding just what Norman is supposed to do and why. This partially clears up, but even as we near the climax we're not real sure what he's going to do. Even he's not particularly certain. Rest assured, he does "something." It's a bit of a letdown because the last few minutes of our showdown scene get a bit too preachy, spelling out the moral of the story for us. Still, it's very enjoyable to that point.

MY SCORE: 7/10

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