Directed by Chris Butler
Animated Feature Film (Sam Fell and Chris Butler)
2012 / 92 Minutes
Chris Butler’s ParaNorman is ParaBoring. You know your animated feature is in trouble when the funniest lines uttered in the entire film are: “Don’t make me throw this hummus. It’s spicy!” They occur roughly fifteen minutes into the film.
Young Norman Babcock (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee of the horrible American remake of Let Me In, which was based on the remarkable John Ajvide Lindqvist novel Let the Right One In) has the ability to see dead people. How did this come about? No explanation needed apparently. He didn’t drink spider piss on a dare or eat just enough rat poison to alter his senses. He didn’t hang upside-down naked from the steeple of a nunnery for fifteen minutes or lick a skunk’s tail. He didn’t get sick with Cotard’s Syndrome (which would actually make sense and be kind of interesting) or tongue kiss a corpse. Or maybe he did do all these things. We just don’t know. All we do know for certain, is that he can see, hear, and communicate with the dead for some reason.
Of course the townsfolk of Blithe Hollow don’t believe in his supernatural abilities and surprise, surprise, Norman finds himself an outcast both at home where his father just doesn’t understand him, and at school where the resident bully Alvin picks on him mercilessly.
Predictably, he does eventually make friends with the local fat kid / thrower of hummus Neil Downe, who helps him on his fantastical quest to rid the town of a witch’s curse and all of the zombies that go along with it. If only it was all even remotely entertaining.
Filmed in stop motion 3D, the feature comes across as a poor man’s rip off of something Tim Burton would make. It features a father (voiced by Jeff Garlin) who refers to his son’s activities as being those of “a limp-wristed hippie” and teenage boy (voiced by Casey Affleck) who acts interested in Norman’s sister for the bulk of the film only to reveal at the very last possible second that he’s got a “chick-flick” loving boyfriend. Kid friendly? The MPAA thought so. They slapped a PG rating on the whole sorry thing. Perhaps they were guessing that no one would bother to see it.
Critics have called the film “bold” and “daring” when what they mean to say is “derivative” and “uninspired.” The only good thing about this fecal smelling outing is the voice acting of John Goodman, who so far has shown up in not one, not two, but three Oscar nominated pictures this year (Flight, Argo.) He’s brings the funny as Norman’s crazy Uncle Prenderghast, a man who can also see ghosts. Why? Haha! Like you’re going to get a reason, c’mon!
The scariest thing about this film isn’t the zombies or the interesting dialog and character choices that were made. No, the scariest thing is that this film actually raked in $105 million dollars worldwide. Seriously? Whatever happened to word of mouth? Do we all really hate each other that much now?
Real friends don’t let friends see shit like ParaNorman. Thanks Academy, thanks a lot.
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