It’s a testimony to the quality of animated films these days that I emerged from Para Norman a little dissatisfied. It features cutting edge animation, wit and humor with some deeper philosophical considerations thrown into the mix. Despite all these pluses it didn’t quite hit the heights of Wreck It Ralph for me or P1. Nevertheless its still a fun outing, particularly for zombie fans and horror buffs.
Para-Norman utilizes stop motion animation in the tradition of the delightful Wallace and Grommit. The old fashion clay models have been souped up with 3D printing technology, bringing the art form well and truly into the 21st Century. Still the look of the film retains a certain old school charm. We are introduced to Norman Babcock, a spiky haired, eleven year old zombie fan who has a warm relationship with his Grandma. So far, so normal but we soon discover that Grandma has recently passed away and Norman sees dead people. In fact he sees dead people all the time. They constantly float above him in a sea of green ectoplasmic haze. No one else understands his “gift” and long suffering Norman is the butt of bullying at school and a source exasperation to his family. He teams up with Neil an equally put upon fat kid with irritable bowel syndrome who thinks Norman’s ability to communicate with the undead is way cool. Predictably it isn’t long before these two under dogs are given the chance to become heroes. In this case, the spirit of a witch who was unfairly executed three hundred years earlier is about to wreak havoc upon Norman’s home town of Blithe Hollow. Naturally only Norman can stop her.
The witch has cursed the souls of the seven jurors who convicted her to roam the earth as the undead which is where the zombie mayhem comes in. Some fun is had with a zombie car chase sequence but terror soon gives way to sympathy. The lumbering, groaning monsters are more afraid of the modern world than it is of them and for good reason. The Blithe Hollow townsfolk waste no time in forming a gun toting, torch wielding lynch mob. It turns out that the zombies have put aside their desire to munch on human brains in order to help Norman stop to the witch’s curse. This leads to a monologue where Norman calls off the mob. There’s more monologuing when Norman persuades the spirit of the young girl falsely accused of witch craft to call it quits with all the super natural shenanigans. This is where I had a slight problem with the movie. Para Norman had some thoughtful points to make about fear, prejudice and the nature of conflict. Unfortunately these points are hammered home via lectures from the central character.
I don’t need to tell you that Norman successfully placates the witch’s troubled soul and goes from being the town pariah to local hero. He even wins the acceptance and admiration of his didactic father. We all learn ( once again ) that difference is something to be embraced rather than shunned. Overall its an enjoyable ride which pokes gentle fun at the zombie/horror genre and provides much off the wall humor for adults. Its central message of acceptance and forgiveness is a worthy one. I only wish its delivery had been a little more subtle.
Mumabulous Verdict: 7/10
Para Norman is funny and good hearted. Its worth the outing for the charming animation alone. I’d score it higher if it weren’t for the monologuing. In conclusion if you only see one family movie this season make it Wreck It Ralph. Para Norman is not a bad second choice.
It was kinda funny but kinda scary. Wreck It Ralph was the best kids’ movie.
M: Do you mean the best kids’ movie these Christmas holidays?
P1: No the best kids’ movie ever.
Not scary. Silly monsters. I want a drink of apple juice.