PARANORMAN…NORMAN…No, he’s not Psycho

By Dr. Craig D. Reid

Only Norman (center) can see his ghostly grandma (left, voice of Elaine Stritch) as the other characters look on in the visually striking "ParaNorman." Photo: Associated Press / SFI’ve got to open with a wee spoiler only because I think about 99.99% of the viewers won’t get it or won’t see it. Being that this awesomely cool film is being released one week after the London Olympic games, let’s just say that there’s a ultra neat homage to the 1988 Seoul Olympics and it has everything to do with the opening ceremonies and the mind boggling events that immediately followed the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.  Enough said.

Similar to America’s success at the 2012 Olympics, Paranorman is certain to be a gold medal extravaganza, as any decent stop-motion animated feature with good lad and lass virtuous messages eel in and out of the plot with the electricity of one of it’s Amazon cousins. The river of pseudo-horror flows as freely as some of America’s gold medal winning female gymnastic routines with Gabby delight.

Something that is making the rounds on Youtube is the quassi-cult status notion of teens being posed with the question, “What do you need if zombies are taking over the world?” Then for the next five minutes a bevy of bashing-zombie wannabes proudly exhibit their serious collections of handguns, knives, shotguns and/or rifles that they have stashed in their basement man cave or their “off limits to parents” bedrooms.

BTW, mums and dads, you should really check out what you’re kids are hiding in their rooms…seriously…there’s enough news stories out there to warrant the search…right?.

Anyhoo, the co-directed Sam Fell and Chris Butler Paranorman is a defrightful, muted macabre cartoon caper about an 11-year old, stand at attention hair, big-eyed, boy named…yep…you guessed it…Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee), who has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts.

Nerd, geek, Willis-less and treated like a lunatic outcast, Norman is unwillingly thrust into the pumpkin light as he has been ordained to figure out how to save his home town of Blithe Hollow from the recurring madness and revenge of a wicked 300-year old witch that he must stop from coming back to life.

How will he do this? Simple.

Fend off a handful of Zombie founding fathers, while dealing with his pre-requisite arch nemesis bully at school, living with his whacked out high school sister who thinks Norman is king of the stupid dorks, dealing with his parasympathetic father and sympathetic mother, battling with a town of crazy zombie killers armed to the teeth and get to the cemetery on time to read the witch a story from a book guarded by his off the wall, uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman), who suddenly dies of a heart attack at the wrong time.

The film flows faster than the US, Men’s 100-meter Olympic sprinters, who were nonchalantly wiped out by the Jamaican sprinters (US men boisterously act like intense, young angry black men with gangsta faces, which slowed them down, while the Jamaicans were having fun, mugging for the camera and more relaxed). Although the Americans didn’t get the lesson, thankfully for Blithe Hollow, Norman gets the message and adjusts his strategy as he comes face-to-face with the witch.

But she’s not hearing any more, as the wild-eyed girl from Blithe Cloud refuses to beckon to Norman’s commands.

The animation exudes with high quality fairy tale finesse, flirting with your senses as it invites you into their world, breaks down your guard and attitudes that maybe you’ve seen something like this before, only to realize that you have and then again you haven’t.

Although touted as a “horror” flick, in the most tender of senses, Paranorman is more fun than frightening, the zombies are breakout boogeymen where if one had any sense of reasonable humor you’d see their meaning of “will you join me” has nothing to do with what is standard for zombies biting and feasting on human flesh.

“It’s okay to be afraid, just don’t let that fear change you as a person.” It’s the mantra of the film…a verbatim lesson I learned almost 40 years ago when I was told I had five years left to live. So does that mean when I write my book and share the lesson, I’ll be accused of  plagiarism?

Decay, dead, undead and dread, it’s a an exceedingly family affair film that is cuter than Buffy and Jody (for you ’60s buffs), but paying extra money for the 3D version makes less sense than snow skiing in the Sahara Desert.

Point is…2 D or not 2 D, that is the question…and it is more nobler in the mind (and less expensive) to watch it that way.

Cheers, pleasant nightmares and may the Paranorman be with you.

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