Wednesday, January 2, 2013

ParaNorman


***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!


ParaNorman – 5 out of 5


I’m a sucker for animation—2-D, 3-D, the downright dangerous 8-D (all those dimensions can be quite lethal) and even the classic (vintage, if you’re a hipster douche) stop-motion animation. Stop-motion is a rare sight nowadays and is quickly disappearing in the way 3-D animation is making 2-D animation disappear. With the exception of a Wes Anderson stop-motion film, most of these animated features are pretty amazing and can make all the pixels seen within any typical Dreamworks film look outdated like they’re made of Walkmans or something—okay, that’s an exaggeration because no stop-motion film can compete with the computing prowess of Pixar studios and we should just all bow down to our computer masters now so the ensuing slaughter that will arrive from them soon will be all the less bloody and time-consuming.

See, this child has already swallowed his cyanide capsule in anticipation over the
computers taking over.


Even though 3-D animation is still the belle of the ball, stop-motion animation is that cute artsy girl who is really interesting and has a lot of the same interests we do. She may not have perfect breasts and a killer ass like 3-D animation but all of stop-motion's flaws somehow make her better looking and I’m now starting to realize how strange this analogy really is.

I can say that this is probably the first time I've ever seen a stop-motion animated film
that contained a character with gauged ears.



All I saw when I was a kid was the bottom of Cheetos bags...
I was a fat child...and now I'm a fat adult!
ParaNorman is about a little boy named Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee)—his name is Norman because if it wasn’t, the pun of a title wouldn’t work—Norman is all Sixth Sense-y in his life and is capable of seeing dead people (and not of the John McClane as a therapist variety either). Pretty much of all Norman’s peers at school think he’s a creep—including the school bully (which is a surprise considering that most school bullies are kind-hearted individuals who rejoice in the differences of others); Alvin (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse and becoming the quota-making actor for the number of hyphenated last names allowed in one movie). Even Norman’s family is timid in his presence as his mother (Leslie Mann) makes excuses for his gift, his father (Jeff Garlin) is angry over it and his strangely hot despite the fact she’s made of plastics and isn’t alive sister (Anna Kendrick) just finds him annoying. Meanwhile, Norman is fine just watching zombie movies in the living room while talking to his dead grandma (Elaine Stritch) and trying to avoid the advances of friendship from another social outcast; Neil (Tucker Albrizzi). Neil is the fat kid in school which, aside from dead-seeing, is basically painting a bull’s eye on your body when attending public school.

Public safety hazard in public school:  Having bosoms.

Yep, she totally looks like a threat.
The town Norman calls home has an interesting past that involves witches and a curse. Basically, the settlers of the town found a small child with some paranormal (that’s paraNORMAL) abilities that, needless to say, freaked the townfolk the fuck out. A group of the town’s most elite condemned the little girl; Aggie (voiced by Jodelle Ferland), to death and in no way completely overreacted by killing a child. Since they killed a small witch because they couldn’t control their bladders from empting into their pants and streaming down to their buckled shoes, Aggie placed a curse on the town that will raise the dead of those who killed her and unleash her anger on the place every year—that is, if not for the heroic styles of Norman’s homeless (and possibly crazy) uncle (John Goodman). 

Norman's uncle looks like a credible man.

Time is running out for Norman’s uncle and it’s time to pass on the family legacy but Norman refuses to believe in the curse—yet, he has no problem with accepting he can see ghosts. However, he quickly learns that this curse is for realsies and he, his chubby buddy, his sister, the school bully and his chubby buddy’s muscular brother; Mitch (Casey Affleck), need to stop Aggie’s torment and get those damn zombies back into the grave before the entire city is level with horror and destruction.

Oh zombies...why aren't you real?


I went to see this one in the theater because of the amazing trailer it provided. Here, take a look…


Small details like the way the light realistically pierces through
the ear flesh really made the movie for me.

First off, I love Donovan so the movie won major points for me there and second, the animation and story looked fantastic. In fact, the movie exceeded my expectations in that respect. Every single second that fills the film is saturated with some of the best stop-motion work that I have ever seen in my life. The attention to detail is just jaw dropping as the animators even made sure that the skin of the characters reacts to light in the way our real-life bodies react to it. For example, the characters ears are translucent enough for light to pass and give them that red hue around the edges that you thought was so cool when you played with a flashlight as a child. And that was just the beginning…the character’s natural movements and facial expressions and, most of all, the breath-taking cloud and environment effects that come from Aggie’s powers. All this comes from being the first film to utilize full color 3-D printers to assist in creating the amazingly dynamic puppets.

Can giving Norman great hair count towards the "dynamic puppets" point I made?




And speaking of the puppets, I really loved the design of the characters. The exaggerated body styles (including the awesome curvaceous backside of Norman’s sister than made me think shameful thoughts and filled me with a desire to Google some “Rule 34” art work on her) and unique faces all reminded me of the great body of work from the immensely talented Tim Schafer, specifically the design of the characters from his awesome (but highly unappreciated) game Psychonauts.

Come on, admit it...she's hot!


 With the animators making the characters move fluidly, the voice actors stepped in to help and add to the life-like performance that assisted in making the story and not a single actor faltered in their delivery. First off, you already have John Goodman, Jeff Garlin, Leslie Mann, Elaine Stritch and Casey Affleck on the cast so the film is already off to an immense start but the true deciding factor rested within the main star, the child Norman. Tucker Albrizzi’s performance as Norman’s pal Neil definitely was stellar and he delivered some of the movie’s most humorous moments but the reality is if Norman wasn’t cast right, the whole movie could have crumbled. However, Kodi Smit-McPhee really delivered and made Norman the awkward outcast who ends up saving the day. This was surprising because Smit-McPhee’s (other than having a face that looks like he may be an alien wearing a human mask) performances in such films as The Road and Let Me In were so forgettable that I didn’t even remember him in those films (surprising since there was only 4 or 5 people in The Road and he played the kid) until I checked out his IMDb page before writing this review.

Hmmm...I'm no meteorologist but I think skies like that could mean trouble.


Finally, ParaNorman delivers in a big way with the story. The story is simple enough and draws enough from our own awful history in this country with accusing and murdering people who were believed to be witches but the movie, like all animated movies nowadays thanks to Pixar, pours on a heaping helping of emotion as Norman tries to come to terms with the lonely feeling he gets from his abilities, the tragic story that is those who condemned Aggie to die and the torment the little girl must deal with. I’m not afraid to admit this but the film makes me cry like…like…um…okay, I’m out of metaphors right now but it makes me cry okay. In fact, the ending has me choking up so bad that it will be added to the list of animated movies that makes me cry like a bitch and it will take its place right next to the Iron Giant sacrificing himself to save the town and the gang in Toy Story 3 accepting their fate in the trash furnace.

Casey Affleck as Mitch made for some truly humorous moments.


ParaNorman is just plain fantastic. The story, the animation and the respect it shows to the horror films of old that helped inspire the movie was all done so well. The movie is touching, spooky and overall funny. It transcends genres in a way few films (live-action or animated) can do and ends up not only just being a cute, funny movie that entertains in spades but ended up being a work of art for me and a thing of beauty as it unfolded on the screen. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it seems someone is cutting onions in the next room because I am starting to tear up and, let me assure you, it has nothing to do with the fact that I am thinking about the film’s ending or the Iron Giant scene I mentioned nor the Toy Story 3 part. Also, there’s some dust in my eyes and my allergies are acting up.

What a happy family!

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