Friday, September 7, 2012

PARANORMAN Review - He Said

Directed by: Chris Butler, Sam Fell
Written by: Chris Butler
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann, Anna Kendrick and Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Synopsis: Young boy that just happens to be able to see ghosts is tasked with lifting a 300-year old curse.

At this interestingly crucial moment of cultural and technological transition that we face, we will continue seeing the argument of the "past vs. the future." It can take many forms; MP3s vs. vinyl records, newspapers vs. online new sites, etc. And while I usually have a middle-of-the-road approach where I can see both sides of these arguments, one where I am always going to be a little more nostalgic for is going to be in animation. I will always lean more towards classic animation styles than CGI. I have especially have a very soft spot for stop-motion animation since some of the most important movies of my childhood were created in this medium. With this, I say that I am completely enamored with Studio Laika's (CORALINE) latest effort, PARANORMAN. Unless there is something else that completely blows me out of the water, this is hands-down my favorite animated movie of the year. This movie not only has a stronger message than the usual fare from Dreamworks or even Pixar, but the aesthetic is top-notch.

I do think that in order to enjoy it, you do have to have a love for the weird and dark things in pop culture. The story is of pretty familiar territory, where our main character, Norman, has to learn to not only accept himself but also those around him. What I really enjoyed about the movie was that Norman doesn't hate his supernatural gift, instead he seems to enjoy it and doesn't care if people look at him weird on the streets. He might seem a little bummed when kids write "FREAK" on his locker, but he has fancy cleaning material to wipe that off.  if only because he can still talk to his Grandma, who you find out, within two minutes, is dead. This is a very endearing way of introducing Norman's gift. And I like the fact that the movie never really quite makes a big deal out of it. The movie sort of explains the origin of Norman's ability, but in a very matter-of-fact way. The celebrities who lend their voices to these characters all do a pretty fine job but they're over all pretty standard performances. The one stand out performance was Mintz-Plasse as Alvin, for being able to effectively play a bully instead of a dork like he usually does.

The animation here is top-notch as well. I know from interviews and reading up on the movie that there were various instances of the directors using CG during parts of the movie, but it's used sparingly. Given the nature of the movie, there are some very impressive action sequences once the story ramps up. Given that it takes about two weeks of work to create a few seconds of footage, I'm pretty OK with saying that this movie is pushing stop-motion as a medium in terms of complexity.

As the mystery of the curse and what it actually entails begins to unravel, I actually think that one of the biggest issues of the movie is how intense and dark it can be, especially towards the end. I'm not a parent, so I'm not even sure how to gauge this movie, but there is some stuff here that I was amazed got into the movie. Then again, there was a mom sitting in front of me with her little boy and I kept on looking over to see if he was freaking out; however, after the movie, some of the "intense" scenes I was talking about, the little boy said that was his favorite part, so I might just be overreacting.

What I really like is that this movie has a deeper message than even BRAVE had. I truly believe that more kids need to see a movie like this that encourages them to not only accept their inner weirdness, and that of others. There is a particular reveal in this movie that I found so amazing to see in a modern kid's movie, and it really warmed my heart to see that no parents were freaking out about it. If/when any of you see the movie, you'll know exactly what moment I mean.

I hate to get all Harry Knowles and stuff, but I will say that a big part of the reason why I like this movie so much is that as someone that was always into dark stuff as a kid. I wish I had either had more confidence in myself or maybe parents that were more supportive instead of discouraging. The end really got to me in a good way, and I hope that more people check it out. This is one medium I hope doesn't go away.

No comments:

Post a Comment