Yesterday, Halloween was celebrated in many places around the world, including Glyndwr University’s Film Club. But instead of offering a mainstream horror movie (who wants to have a bad time dealing with jumpscares, anyway…), they decided to show Paranorman, Studio Laika’s animated film that tells the story of Norman, a young boy with a strange ability: being able to see and communicate with dead people. Together with his best friend Neil, he will have to save the world from the curse of an evil witch in this surprisingly hilarious paranormal comedy.
The first feature film I ever watched from Laika was Kubo and the two strings (I’d promise a review on that movie, but the promises are stacking up too fast), so I had high hopes for this older movie. Surprisingly, they completely differ in story, setting and overall tone, both of them are completely different films with a couple of features in common, such as the family-oriented plot and the brilliant stop motion animation that both of them boast.
Without a doubt, the most interesting feature to be found in Paranorman is its magnificent animation. The stop motion’s quality is stunning and works wonderfully throughout the entire runtime. It isn’t a very common technique (Kubo was the only US movie to use it in 2016, for example), so the result is as refreshing as it is beautiful. However, the beauty is greatly constrained by the setting of the movie, as cities and zombies are most likely not the perfect models to make this art shine.
Those zombies do look really terrifying, though! Younger viewers will definitely have a thrill ride with Paranorman, as the creepiest scenes are cleverly directed, so that they are not excessively scary or nightmare-inducing but will keep kids on the edge of their seats.
The story is very simple. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, tons of simple stories make great movies, but don’t expect Pixar or Ghibli kind of depth here. The plot is as straightforward as it can get, there is nothing to make interpretations of, no symbolism or metaphors… Yet somehow it is a very compelling film for both kids and adults, probably due to a jaw-dropping presentation and an incredibly witty script.
It’s hard to believe that this was rated “Suitable for all”, as it’s full of naughty jokes and dark humour. Paranorman’s fun tone is indeed appropriate for everyone, but most of the one-liners will only be appreciated by more mature audience, as sex jokes and social commentary are everywhere. The film works perfectly as a comedy, since every punchline is, at least, chuckle-worthy.
Studio Laika’s zombie comedy is a lot of fun, but it cannot be denied that it lacks depth. It is funny, enjoyable and beautiful, but it doesn’t achieve to go beyond that, unfortunately. That doesn’t make it a poor experience, either, as it is a very effective entertainment piece that will delight both kids and adults. 7/10