Journeying into the world of children’s movies can be a little scary for an anyone over the age of six. We can only handle so many cheap, easy jokes and overly simplified plots and themes.
A children’s movie about zombies holds equal terror, but in the case of “ParaNorman” these fears are blessedly not realized. Because it’s okay to scare the kids every once in a while. They can handle it.
That right there is probably what impressed me most about this movie, but plenty else did too. First, a brief synopsis.
Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a little strange. He’s eleven years old, has a father (Jeff Garlin) who doesn’t understand him, a mother (Leslie Mann) who is insanely caring and understanding, a sister (Anna Kendrick) who’s a teenage girl, and a grandmother (Elaine Stritch) who’s dead.
Did I mention that Norman sees and talks to dead people (this is where the similarities to “The Sixth Sense” end)?
He’s different and he’s ostracized because of it, not only by kids at school, but his own father and most of the town.
That town is the small town of Blithe Hollow, a hamlet completely defined by a centuries-old witch-hunt (of the literal kind) and the resulting curse, a tall tale to everyone but Norman who’s just discovered the reality of the situation from his dead, crazy uncle (John Goodman).
What follows is a little scary, a little funny, and incredibly well done. Yes, there are zombies and witches and ghosts, but what “ParaNorman” nails on the head is what it’s like to be different and the power that fear can have over us.
There is the predictable adults vs. kids/innocence vs. cynicism theme, but it’s used so obviously that it works. The mob mentality is explored in a child-friendly and equally overt fashion. It really is quite touching. I cried.
This being a kids movie, all turns out well, but all loose ends are not tied up, something that I personally appreciated.
I’ve said it before (as has Kermit) and I’ll say it again, kids are smart, give them the chance and they might just emotionally recover from that intelligent children’s movie about zombies…and surprise you.