It's not often that audiences get a kids horror movie. Of course I use the term "horror" loosely. There are ghosts, zombies, a witch, and a curse, but there isn't any blood and guts, or masked killers. There is death, but more from age than someone being chopped up. So what exactly does ParaNorman offer?
Norman is a young boy unlike any other in his town, as he has the ability to talk to ghosts. His family isn’t too fond of this, particularly his father. Neither are the kids in school with the exception of a boy named Neil. Just as the pair become friends, Norman gets a surprise visit from his uncle. He lets Norman in on a family secret, a secret that puts Norman in position to save the town.
As previously mentioned, there is horror, but obviously nothing hardcore. The elements of horror drive the story, and provide some comic relief. First come the ghosts, which Norman sees including his grandmother. In an early scene, the audience sees Norman saying hello to many of the town's ghosts on his way to school. Unfortunately, after that Norman doesn't see many ghosts. So how is it he sees all of them at early on, but all the ghosts disappear later on?
When the ghosts vanish out come the zombies. No, it isn't the zombie apocalypse or anything like that. There are only about 7, or 8 of them, but they make their mark on the movie. It is good to see zombies that kids could laugh at because they certainly aren’t like the ones on The Walking Dead. These zombies aren't after brains, but too bad the townspeople don't know that. In one of the best scenes, the townspeople form a mob, and try to put an end to the zombies. The zombies are actually the more rational ones while the normal people go crazy.
While the zombies certainly drive this movie from a horror standpoint, let me talk about Norman and his friends. Norman is an interesting kid, as he might even remind some horror fans of themselves when they were little. If not, he will make you jealous that you never got a room like him. Yes, I was jealous! Besides his room, the only other thing that really stands out about him is his hair. He does over come some obstacles, but isn’t totally a character that audiences will fall head over heals for because of he has more of a quiet personality.
Audiences might be drawn more to some of his friends. He gets help from a pair of brothers, Neil and the older Mitch, that couldn’t be much more different. Neil is the overweight talkative kid, and Mitch is the more like a dumb jock. Like Norman, Neil is also singled out in school, but because he’s overweight. They definitely send a good message to kids in the way Neil deals with what the other kids think of him.
Norman gets help from his sister Courtney. She doesn't want to help, but at least takes her responsibility to watch Norman seriously. It doesn’t hurt that she happens to like Mitch, as she’s a boy crazed teen girl. Norman also gets help from an unexpected character, which I'll let you see for yourself.
The film itself looks good, especially in 3D. It starts off really bright, but once the zombies rise the darkness takes over. The voices of the characters seem to fit, especially John Goodman who does the voice of Norman's uncle. While it’s a fun adventure, there just seems to be something lacking. Maybe it needs to be a little funnier, something more to the storyline, or just Norman.
If you are looking to introduce your kids to some elements of horror than ParaNorman might be a good place to start. Ghosts, zombies, and a witch make themselves known, but nothing that will give your kids nightmares. They are sure to find a character to relate to, or just laugh at. Kids might enjoy the movie from start to finish, but others might find there is just something missing to put it over the top. With that said, I give it 3.5 pools of blood.