I liked Brave, the 2012 Pixar film starring an adventurous and independent Scottish princess. I enjoyed it, it was beautiful and entertaining; it was not, however, the best animated movie of the year. Despite what “The Academy” says, I was not as impressed as they were with the movie. Pixar has done some truly great films in the past, some of them deserving the coveted Best Picture award and yet losing to a live action film. Brave was not their best work, it was slightly generic and borderline formulaic. If my say had meant anything and I was given a chance to vote for the award for Best Animated Feature of 2012, my vote would have undoubtedly gone to ParaNorman. I wrote briefly about ParaNorman here. The movie was far less generic, it was new, fresh and exciting. There were aspects of the film that I had never seen in an animated movie, they took creative risks that ultimately paid off for the betterment of the story. Unfortunately it didn’t get near the amount of the attention that other animated features did.
In ParaNorman we’re introduced to a little boy, Norman, who is the only one capable of seeing and communicating with the dead. Needless to say, he is an outcast with very few friends. Even his parents think there is something wrong with him. The gist of the movie comes from Norman being commissioned by his, estranged, crazy uncle (voiced by John Goodman) to prevent the release of a curse on their tiny town. Things get really bad when a group of zombies rise from the grave and head strait for the heart of the town. This is one of the few zombie movies for children I have seen (to be honest, the only other one I can think of at the moment is a Scooby-Doo VHS). ParaNorman is a horror movie for children. Not a slasher movie, but a well thought out horror film, it deals with real situations and fears that kids may have in a supernaturally theatrical way. Norman must deal with bullies, being different and the pain that comes with holding on to anger. It’s a my-first-zombie movie with a powerful message about forgiveness. Also, it’s pretty hilarious. Many nods and winks to horror movie fans and plenty of slapstick humor widen the range of audience appeal.
The unique visuals associated with stop motion animation is in full force. The movements of the characters and the somewhat jerky nature of the atmosphere of the film’s reality certainly adds to the supernatural tone that ParaNorman strives for. The color scheme offers some truly stunning scenes, often times transcending the expectations of a film in it’s genre. Every visual aspect of the movie worked in it’s favor, convincing me that this would not have been as good a film had it been traditional animation, computer animation or live action. Scrounging up a stellar voice cast also added to the experience. Each voice was quirky yet not over the top and matched perfectly to the individual character.
It’s a strange type of movie to impress the importance of acceptance and forgiveness to the audience, but as the movie winds down it becomes apparent that that is exactly what the whole film is about. The most prominent of the messages presented in this film is a warning against holding on to anger, even if someone has done something truly horrible to you. In a sea of revenge centric action movies, it was refreshing to see this truth played out in such an unexpected movie. Hate is an addictive poison, one that once we allow ourselves to get caught up in, becomes increasingly hard to give up.