Quirky humor, stunning visuals highlight ‘ParaNorman’

Emily Price

Norman Babcock is not an average middle school student. He is a loner and a victim of bullying. And he sees ghosts everywhere. ParaNorman , released Aug. 17, is the tale of this 11-year-old outcast who can communicate with the dead. It is riddled with dark humor and a clever point of view on modern society and its fascination with the supernatural. The protagonist deals with intense bullying due to his ability to see ghosts in daily life, and his already abnormal middle school lifestyle is made even more so when Norman’s uncle gives him a cryptic mission to stop the famed witch’s curse. In his small New England town of Blithe Hollow, witches are part of daily life due to the hanging of a supposed witch in the days of the pilgrims and the story is used to draw tourism. The frightening witch is most likely too frightening for the film’s PG rating, and young children will not take kindly to her demeanor. Throughout Norman’s mission, he joins forces with fellow bullying victim Neil Downe, a hilariously self-aware character. He also unintentionally enlists his teenaged sister Courtney, the school bully Alvin,and Neil’s athletic older brother Mitch, who is also Courtney’s love interest. As well as the intimidating witch, some humor may require age to appreciate. The movie is filled with irony brought on by the stereotypical actions of the townspeople, such as a man who stands screaming by a vending machine as zombies close in on him just so he can get his chips. The recent fascination with zombies is also parodied when a weapon-yielding mob attacks a group of peaceful undead. Aside from the underlying humor and original plot of the film, the technical aspects that directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler employ are unusual as well. Rather than the typical cameras used for a 3D stop-motion film, it was made using sixty Canon EOS 5D DSLR cameras. The soundtrack by Jon Brion fit the mood of each scene as well as possible. The vocal cast is well chosen, with Kodi Smit-McPhee as Norman, the more well-known Anna Kendrick as Courtney, and Casey Affleck as Mitch Downe. This film, although intended to be viewed in 3D, is visually impressive in 2D as well. The scenery is well done and looks reminiscent of Tim Burton films such as Corpse Bride ,although noticeably more colorful. This movie is a gem in the world of movies targeted for a younger audience that can be appreciated by many, and is definitely worth the price of admission. Overall Rating: 8/10 Emily Price is at staff writer for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter@BeardenBARK and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.