Movie Title: Paranorman
Directors: Chris Butler, Sam Fell
Date Released: August 17th, 2012
Date Seen: September 1st, 2012
Part 1 – Spoiler Free Quickie Review
A movie that’s not afraid to be ugly to be beautiful – great for kids (that can handle the zombies) and adults alike. This movie was great fun. There were a lot of grownup jokes or references thrown that made the movie more enjoyable for adults, without the kids being totally confused as to what was going on. Kids, especially if they already like ghosts/zombies/etc. will enjoy this movie. Everywhere you look there’s something visually appealing to look at or something cool to discover. They went full out on the details, and knowing how they made the movie (stop motion), it’s just incredible. It’s extremely well done. Clearly that’s what I was the most impressed with.
The plot is good for a kids movie. There was room for the movie to go a little bit beyond simply “Don’t Bully!”, and it started to, but never full out moved on to bigger things. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a great message, but more could have been done and it would have been nice to see.
Part 2 – In Depth Spoiler Ridden Review/Synopsis
Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a boy who is considered a “freak” by nearly everyone around him. The kids at school torment him and call him a freak for being able to see ghosts. The worst bully is Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). The townspeople think he’s just that weird little boy. Even at home, his father, Perry (Jeff Garlin) and his sister, Courtney (Anna Kendrick), think that he is insane. The mother, Sandra (Leslie Mann), thinks that Norman is just going through a phase and they should let him have this. The family always gets extra agitated when Norman mentions that he has been talking to Grandma… because she’s dead. But Norman always sees her in the living room. After one particular incident, Norman goes upstairs and listens in his zombie-poster-covered room to the sounds of his parents fighting. We hear his parents mention Norman’s crazy uncle, Mr. Prenderghast (John Goodman), and how they hope he doesn’t even know what Norman looks like.
Obvious flash over to Mr. Prenderghast’s house where he has TONS of pictures of Norman and appears to have been stalking him. Mr. Prenderghast is an old dirty slightly crazy man and we later find out why. As Norman walks to school, alone, the next day, he starts saying hi to people that aren’t there. He does this a good ways and then the camera does a 360 around Norman and we can see all the ghosts on the street now. They range from old people who have recently died, to an ancient War ghost, to a sky diver stuck in a tree, to a hippie, it’s pretty cool. He talks to them all on his way to school. At school, the class is practicing a play about the witch of their city. Their city, based on the stuff we’ve seen outside is kind of like a Salem type town. Tons of tourists, witch stuff everywhere, and there’s a huge statue of a big ugly witch in the town center. So they are doing a play on the history of the witch. For a moment, Norman spaces out and starts to see the walls disintegrate and the other peoples faces in the play look like other people… then he zones back in and gets made fun of again.
After school, Norman is leaving with Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), another boy who is made fun of. He is made fun of for being fat, having asthma, sweating when he walks, and nearly anything else you can think of but he tries not to let it get him down. In the town square, Norman sees Mr. Prenderghast. Norman avoids him saying that he’s not allowed to talk to him. Mr. Prenderghast though starts shouting off crazy things about a curse, it’s coming, and he (Prenderghast) can see ghosts too, and he knows Norman has seen “the signs”. This random shouting goes on and then Neil throws his leftover food at Mr. Prenderghast to make him go away (I do recall thinking, really, that fat kid had leftovers in his lunch? right…. I’m a horrible person). Norman presumably goes home but we see Mr. Prenderghast at his house grabbing a book and obsessing over it. He needs to tell Norman something about the curse, because it’s coming and it’s inevitable. Then, Mr. Prenderghast has a heart attack and dies. The dying scene was actually pretty funny. He falls over, the ghost starts to come out of him, then he jumps back up with a “haha! not yet!” and then really dies. His ghost comes out and knows he has shit to do.
At a school play that night, Norman goes insane. The walls melt again and turn into ash and this time Norman is in a forest. He hears voices from a tree telling him that the dead are coming. He snaps out of it and yells it in front of the whole town. His parents drive home and ground Norman for basically being weird and crazy in front of the whole town. His dad is super pissed. His mom waits in the car and tells Norman that he (the dad) is just scared of what he doesn’t understand…. so he manifests that through anger.
The next day or afternoon at school, Norman is in a bathroom stall – and the ghost of Mr. Prenderghast appears to him. The whole time Alvin is in the next stall drawing on the wall (trying to spell his name) and listening to the insane noises coming from Norman’s stall. Mr. Prenderghast tells Norman that the witch put a horrible curse on the town 300 years ago. Norman must go get the book that is in Mr. Prenderghast’s dead hands and read it at the site where the witch was buried. This year, apparently, is also the 300th anniversary of the witch’s death so of course it’s all going to be extra difficult. Norman must do this by the time the sun sets that night. Mr. Prenderghast, now having fulfilled his duty to pass on this information – now moves on to the next life. So no more ghost.
At home, Norman’s parents apparently have had a date night planned for a while. They leave Courtney to watch over the house and make sure the grounded Norman leaves. Norman is up in his room, and his cell phone goes off. It’s the Friday the 13th theme. The text says “come to the window” and down below is Neil, in a hockey mask. It was cute. Neil wants to know if Norman can come play. Norman says no, he has to go get this book and blah blah blah, and it’s his duty and blah blah blah. Neil leaves all sad. Norman doesn’t know what to do. He thinks Mr. Prenderghast is crazy – but also can see ghosts so maybe he should believe him? Right around then ghost Grandma (Elaine Stritch) appears to tell Norman that it’s her duty to protect Norman and some other stuff I forgot but ends up convincing him to go.
Norman leaves and heads to Mr. Prenderghast’s house. Courtney hears the door slam, but rather than go after Norman she just yells that he better not go anywhere. On his way to the house, Norman accidentally knocks Alvin – who was attempting to rap and break dance for some girls – over. So we know that’s not going to be good. Norman gets to Mr. Prenderghast’s terrifying house and finds the body, and takes a long hilarious attempt at prying the book out of his hands.
Norman goes down to the cemetery and finds where he thinks the witch is buried. He sees something that says something about the witch and so he decides this is the spot. He starts reading, but Alvin appears. Alvin torments Norman long enough for the sun to finally go below the horizon. The second that happens the earth starts shaking – and the 7 graves that are around them, awaken. So 7 zombies come out. Ahhh! There’s also a big purple cloud that starts looming in on the town.
At Neil’s house, the doorbell rings. Mitch (Casey Affleck), Neil’s older brother answers it. Courtney is in awe of his apparently super hot bodyness. She kindly asks to talk to Neil to see if her little brother is there. After some combination awkward attempt at flirting with Mitch while interrogating Neil, they find out where he’s gone. Courtney asks Mitch if he can drive them to go get Norman. So they go driving down the road in his van. The whole time Courtney can’t shut up and is trying to make herself sound awesome to Mitch.
Alvin and Norman run to hide from the zombies in Mr. Prenderghast’s house. They are super slow, but start looking through the house for them. Alvin ends up freaking out and running outside. Norman goes to chase him, but not before he thinks he hears one of the zombies say “you have to stop….”. They end up on the road and are running down it being chased by zombies. The van containing Mitch, Courtney, and Neil happen to barrel down the road and they hit the zombie. They stop and see if “he’s ok” and then realize he’s a zombie. Alvin and Norman run back to the car and tell them to drive away super fast. So now they are driving away all wondering what is going on… but another zombie happened to latch on to the van. A police woman starts chasing the van as well. The chase goes all the way through town, the zombie gets thrown off, and ends up with the car falling down a hill, conveniently into an auto-shop parking lot, and the car is destroyed. During this chase though, Norman was trying to figure out why his two-word reading from the book didn’t work. He decided that the witch wasn’t buried there – that was where “her victims” were buried. So he decides they must go to the courthouse to find out where the witch is really buried and read from the book.
As the kids all run to the courthouse, the zombies have now reached the town. The townspeople start going nuts. Even though the zombies aren’t trying to hurt them or anything, the townspeople slowly start to develop the mob mentality. The kids get to the courthouse and start looking for records as to where the witch might have been buried. The zombies also somehow get to the courthouse ( I went pee so I didn’t see exactly what happened ). So now the kids are all looking for records and getting frustrated and there is a mob forming outside. The mob decides to burn the building down to flush the zombies out. All the kids, except Norman start to give up and decide to leave. But now they’re trapped in there by the adults uh oh – and then one throws in a burning teddy bear to try and light the building on fire. Norman decides to just go up to the roof and to try and read the book to the cloud – which is the witch, apparently. He does this and she just laughs at him. He tries to read the book, but realizes it’s just a fairy tale. He is super confused. The witch shoots him down with lightning and also gives him the answer to the question of why she is doing this. We flash to the witches trial. There were 6 juror members and 1 judge. They condemned the witch to death for simply having appeared to have been doing some type of witch craft (whatever it was it was stupid). It then flashes to the witch – a little 11 year old girl. Norman gets up from his fall, now back in the courthouse room, left with the image of 7 adults condemning an 11 year old girl to death. The zombies appear and Norman yells at them. He realizes that he can understand them, and tries to figure out why the judge and jury did what they did. They said it was because they were just scared of what they didn’t understand. They also tell Norman that he has to stop the witch. Norman realizes that every year, his uncle (and someone before him) has been reading the witch this fairytale to keep her asleep so she wouldn’t wake up. Norman knows he has to get her to sleep for good.
Norman starts to push his way out of the building with the Zombies following him. The other kids never managed to get out of the building so they are just watching Norman in awe. He gets out side and yells at the townspeople to stop – that the zombies are just trying to help. The townspeople of course just decide Norman is in cahoots with the zombies so lets get rid of him too. Then Courtney appears at Normans side. And Mitch, Neil, and Alvin. They all tell the towns people that they’re grownups and should be able to listen to reason – and actually pay attention to what is going on around them. She convinces them to finally drop their mob-mentality and let them all by. The witch cloud starts laughing then and destroys the witches statue in the town center at that moment. Norman finds his parents, and the whole family, including the zombie judge, head to where the judge says the witch is buried. It’s one of the best scenes in the movie. The zombie is in the middle of the seat, and starts accidentally leaning to close to Courtney who yells at her Mom to make the zombie stop, and the dad pulls the “If you three don’t be quiet I will pull this car over!!!!” It was hilarious.
They get to where the zombie says the witch is buried. He takes the book and starts heading for it – it’s the tree he saw in his delusions earlier. The witch starts tormenting him and has gotten him separated from his parents. At first Norman tries to read her the bed time story but the witch just laughs. Then there is like a 5 minute long scene of Norman trying to make the girl understand that she was in fact wronged – but now should she be taking it out on everyone else? So basically the bully has now become the bullied. He asks her to remember some of the good rather than the bad. Then we flash to the same tree, but now it’s all beautiful and pretty everywhere and the little girl looks like herself. She said she used to come to this tree with her mom, and how she misses it. Norman tells her that this would be a good place to go to sleep for good and then be able to go see her Mom. And so she goes to sleep. Sounds like that was actually pretty easy right? Yeah, it kind of was. Ah well. It took a bullied kid to understand the other bullied kid and talk her down. So the purple cloud in the town disappears, the zombies slowly disintegrate, leaving a ghost of their former self, and then they disappear into the wind. The whole town is now going around starting to clean up the mess of what happened, everyone saying that they were just following what everyone else was doing, etc.
At home – Norman is sitting in the living room with Grandma. The dad comes in and sits next to her and asks Norman if Grandma is there. Then the whole family comes in and sits with Norman and Grandma saying that now they accept and slightly better understand his weirdness.
I know my sister would rate this higher because it’s her type of thing. I enjoyed it, thought it was a beautifully grotesque movie, well made, etc. I just wanted a little more than the don’t bully message. It’s a great message but could have gone a little bit farther. But definitely worth a watch.