When it comes to kids films, horror is probably the toughest genre to adapt. Every once in a while though a film comes along that seemingly gets it right and Chris Butler’s directorial debut, Paranorman is one of them.
Norman (voiced by Kodi Smith McPhee) is your average everyday kid. OK, really he is not. He loves old horror films, is somewhat socially awkward and oh, he can talk to ghosts Sixth Sense style. Being as nobody believes he can do this, it causes some tension between him and his father while also earning him the label of freak at school. However it is Norman’s weird power that will be needed to stop a 300 year old curse and save his town from ghosts, zombies and all around general chaos.
Paranorman successfully blends a potent mix of actual horror and comedy. Borrowing heavily from classic zombie films, the film puts Norman and his friends in seemingly life-threatening danger and while horror veterans will not find much to be scared by in the film, it can be quite intense for its target audience. Fortunately the film knows exactly when to lighten up the scene with some laughs. Mirroring some of the best family films of all-time, Paranorman aims its humor at everyone in the audience. The film offers plenty of humor aimed at the adults in the crowd and for those horror vets dragged to the theater by youngsters, Paranorman has an extra layer of humor just for you.
Paranorman is more than just kiddie scares and a jolly good laugh though as the film is bleeding with some strong underlying themes. The film openly tackles bullying, remorse, forgiveness and of course dealing with things that scare us. Refreshingly the film also directly speaks to parents with its themes but it thankfully never crosses into the realm of preachiness. That said, some parents may take issue with some of its more adult humor including the sexualization of Norman’s older sister.
In a sea of constant sequels rehashing old characters and old jokes Paranorman is smart, funny, and well thought out. For families tired of the same old, same old it is a refreshing cinema going experience.