(2012, US, d. Sam Fell, Chris Butler)
Devoid of the selfish and need to one-up its animated “peers”, ParaNorman is a film that not only pays homage to the stories inspired it, but is also able to live on its own as an original story.
ParaNorman takes place in the small town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts – made famous for a witch burning years before. Now the town makes its revenue through tourism. Paintings, drawings, plays, antique stores, etc are all named after witches and wizards and spells or infamous killings. Yet despite all of this, the residents are still quick to dispel any rumors of real witchcraft. Of anything out of the ordinary. Which is why our protagonist has such a hard time living a regular life.
Meet Norman. a bullied child with a very unique gift: he can speak with ghosts. Very reminiscent of The Sixth Sense, the film follows Norman on his quest to save a town that not only doesn’t understand him but doesn’t understand the evil forces that threaten it.
Filled with beautiful cinematography that took over 3 years to capture, the stop-motion film marks a rare treat in this year’s slate of animated films: a simple story that doesn’t rely on technological advancements to tell its story. In fact, its simplicity is what makes the film stand out and it’s what makes its message all the more powerful.
Though it does feature quite a bit of legitimate horror at times, ParaNorman is able to effectively utilize the genre as a palette for a very simple message. It’s the story of acceptance. Not of others, but of yourself.
Funny, moving, and unique, ParaNorman is a throwback – not only in its appreciation of genre, but also in its appreciation of a simple story.