The older I get the more I notice that I spend a lot of time complaining and just being cranky and cynical about almost everything on a daily basis. When it comes to movies it’s not that uncommon for me to find joy in the ones that feed into that growing old man that I’m becoming. Yet every now and again I like to remind myself that I do have a functioning heart and still have the ability to be charmed by movies of a lighter nature and PARANORMAN is the latest film to do remind me of just that. This is a film that in spite of some of the writing manages to combine cute childhood innocence and genuine adult laughs that is immensely enjoyable for an audience member of any age.
PARANORMAN is about a boy, Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who was born with the ability to see ghosts everywhere he goes. The ability to do so has made him an outcast to his family and to the other kids at school aside from another delightful husky boy, Neil (Tucker Albrizzi). Norman’s troubles only get worse when his shunned uncle bestows upon him the task of protecting the town from a curse that plagues the town every year that causes a witch to rise from the dead and seek revenge on everyone in her path.
Ghosts, witches and zombies aren’t exactly every child’s idea of solid entertainment as most of the time they may frighten easily or the material might be a little too edgy for them. To be sure, PARANORMAN has plenty of content that might be considered a little to mature for them to fully comprehend a certain joke as well as some more grotesque and dark tones of the material, but this film is completely harmless entertainment. What’s better is that for the young audiences there’s some juvenile chuckles to be had, but also jokes tailored for the older audiences that are no doubt taking their kids to see it- then once they get older and remember the film fondly they can watch it again and find new appreciation for it when they finally understand the more adult humor. For the rest of us already old enough to appreciate the adult humor, don’t worry because even I was having a lot of fun laughing at the more childish stuff- and who doesn’t love to relish moments of feeling like a kid again.
Story wise the film doesn’t try to overcomplicate things or talk down to its audience which isn’t necessarily a flaw so much as it creates moments where they are trying a little too hard to throw jokes or an excess of character quirks at the screen. Eventually in the end when things should be wrapping up there’s an extremely bizarre character reveal that had they revealed it much sooner rather than as what I’m assuming was a punch line I may not have found it as head scratching. The script in general is very simple and inoffensive, but a little too anxious and wordy when it’s setting up the climax and then when the climax starts it becomes a visual dazzler while some of the resolution to the conflict becomes a bit soft instead of just taking a swing for the fence.
I fell in love with the visual style of the film as well as all of the character models and the characters themselves. They are voice cast perfectly and the models add their own little bit of humor to the mix. Norman’s design in particular is instantly memorable and completely endearing with his spiky hair and McPhee’s voice fits him perfectly. The friendship that develops with Norman and Neil warmed my heart at an embarrassing level given how simple it is, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t charmed as hell in the first 10 minutes of the film.
Every so often it feels great to just sit down and take in something light hearted and endearing, but then there’s the ones that go the extra mile to be unbelievably charming and sweet. PARANORMAN is a phenomenal family film that mixes a kind hearted message in with some breathtaking visuals and a delightfully fun supernatural adventure. The film won me over with its heart but blew me away with the mixture of B-movie jokes, great characters and a spectacular finale that falls just short of being masterful. PARANORMAN is a truly memorable film that I can’t wait to relive and one day share with kids of my own.