Norman is a kid who has an unfortunate problem. He lives with a small family, all of whom expect a lot from him, especially his dad who badgers him constantly. Norman’s dad just wants Norman to be like every kid. One who doesn’t talk to spirits of the dead, including his grandmother who died years prior. Norman never really asks for his ability, but is aware of a long lost uncle Prenderghast that his family shunned away years ago, who shares his knack for speech beyond the grave. When his uncle Prenderghast tracks down Norman, and makes him cautious of a curse involving an ancient witch that is set to unfold in their town.
He is the keeper of a book that he must read in order to keep the witch at bay, and Norman is none to sure if he’s capable of handling such a power. When Prenderghast unfortunately dies, Norman is left with the book and with the task of reading the book at the grave of a long dead witch. Unfortunately, the dead begin rising from their graves, and are hell bent on finding Norman and apparently wreaking havoc on the town. It’s no wonder “ParaNorman” manages to attract such an interesting cast of voice actors, since it manages to be one of the most subtly brilliant animated movies made in the last five years. You assume stop motion wouldn’t be so subversive, especially these days when audiences expect only Pixar to really challenge convention, but “ParaNorman” makes great strides.
It opens up a tale about witches, zombies, and a heinous curse and uses these popular tropes to teach us about the horror of stereotyping and the evil that ignorance can breed from its roots. “ParaNorman” from the start features characters just terrified of what they don’t really know, and everyone is in danger of some form of violence due to that terrible result. Norman is constantly shunned by everyone for his ability to see the dead, and befriends young Neil, another outcast, who finds something within Norman, and comes to his aide when the chips are down. Once the dead rise and begin lurking about, Norman has to overcome his own sense of mistrust and horror and rely on the help of his friends and family, while trying to figure out the inherent mystery at foot. Sam Fell and Chris Butler’s “ParaNorman” is a beautiful often riveting family adventure that channels horror and fantasy without really transforming the film itself in to a typical genre entry.
“ParaNorman” goes beyond the concept to dig deeper with a very meaningful and important message. Once Norman puts all of the pieces together, he and his allies begin to understand their own lives more, as well as the possibility for Norman himself to repeat history in a very unpleasant manner. Through and through, “ParaNorman” is funny, heartfelt and very surprising, introducing truly human characters that we can care about, and delving in to how they handle this journey of self discovery, most of all Norman, who garners immense insight in to the capability for ugliness in humanity, as well as the potential for greatness. “ParaNorman” is a wonderful animated film that can be appreciated on all wave lengths and brings with it a very relevant and important moral that bears pondering by fans.