ParaNnoying

21 08 2012

By Kleinz 57

Pardon that pun, but I must be developing a swift case of glaucoma. I am blind to the praise ParaNorman has been getting. The premise, admittedly, had me hooked: What if Cole Sear wasn’t a suckwad about that boy with a shotgun wound to his head? What if a kid was actually cool with this horrible, psychologically-crippling mental disease? Sounds pretty bitching to me. That was my thought at the theater. For the first ten minutes.

Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is your typical teenage outcast, apart from his ability to talk to ghosts. Everyone, including his parents and wide-thighed, mallrat sister (Anna Kendrick) thinks he’s weird, so it’s a welcome social rimshot for Norman when he finds a friend in the school’s perennial fat kid. All is well for Norman — again, apart from the countless dismembered and decapitated astral projections he’s no doubt subjected to on a daily basis — until he is visited by the desheveled Mr. Prenderghast (John Goodman), the boy’s derelict crazy uncle and dead ringer for how I imagine Nick Nolte smells. Prenderghast, in his much too brief spark of interest, explains that his nephew is one of many with a rare gift to speak to the dead, and that Norman must use his connection to stop a young witch’s ghost from wreaking havoc on the ‘Salem Lite’ town of Blithe Hollow.

There’s a clever gag in ParaNorman that sees a string of resurrected zombies beset on all sides by Blithe Hollow’s living, breathing inhabitants. Co-director Chris Butler’s screenplay twists this all too familiar George A. Romero scenario on its head, its intent to shift the audience’s sympathy for the brain dead. Indeed, the swap worked on me. Maybe too much, because I was clamoring for a zombie bite or an anyeurism, even a trowel to the head long before the climax. Exquisite attention is paid in the animation, resembling one of those intricately-designed model train sets pederasts like to keep in their sex dungeons. And really I don’t feel bad about such a demented comparison as LAIKA Studios’ latest takes pride in its defiance of our expecations for wholesome entertainment. We can talk about death in a family film. We can have rigor mortis gags. Well, they’ve defied expectations. I expected our zombie film junkie protagonist to use that expertise to his advantage, and I expected the company behind the far superior Coralineto serve a worthy follow up. At some point in the future, I’ll probably revisit ParaNormanas I suspect I completely misheard its zombie characters’ warning grunts. They’re not moaning ‘AHHHH’; they’re cying ‘BLAHHH.’

Even that hokey stuff about a witch’s curse falls flat, probably because a flattened bullying metaphor is much easier to stuff down someone’s throat. Though certainly enjoyable to look at, I’d still only pay to see this if my health demanded it. So maybe think of ParaNormanlike that mint-flavored tooth polish. You’ve tasted it before, but that won’t stop the dentist from prying your jaws open and shoving it in all the same.

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