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ParaNorman (2012) - Movie Review for Parents

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating
User Rating 2.5 Star Rating (5 Reviews)

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ParaNorman
Photo © Focus Features

Bottom line: ParaNorman is a stop-motion animated film about a boy who can speak to the dead. Parents should know that the movie contains some language, crude humor, sexual references, and frightening scenes involving things like zombies and witches that could be potentially terrifying to very young children.

MPAA Rating: PG, for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language
Guide age recommendation: 12+
Genre: Comedy/thriller
Runtime: 93 minutes
Release Date: August 17, 2012 (wide, 2D/3D)

ParaNorman - Overview

11-year-old Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) has a rare talent: he can see and speak to ghosts. Living in the town of Blithe Hollow, famous for the execution of a witch some 300 years ago, Norman is an avid fan of all things gruesome. He loves watching zombie movies, and his room is plastered with zombie posters and all kinds of otherworldly paraphernalia. In the world of the dead, Norman's a popular kid. In the world of the living, his wry sense of humor doesn't quite mask the inner turmoil as he faces ridicule from his family and the relentless taunting of bullies.

Norman does have one persistent friend in the round-faced believer Neil (Tucker Albrizzi). As Norman's paranormal abilities begin to overwhelm him, he and Neil are accosted by Norman's Uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman), who warns Norman that he must take over the duty of keeping the dreaded witch's curse from being unleashed on the town. Shortly after, Prenderghast dies, leaving incomplete instructions for pacifying the long dead witch.

When Norman fails in his new duty, night of the living dead ensues. A group of seven tormented zombies invade the town, and the witch awakens with a vengeance. Being the only one with the expertise needed to stop the madness, Norman finds himself fighting to free the town with the help of an oddly assembled group including his older sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick), Neil, Neil's older brother Mitch (Casey Affleck), and the town bully Alvin (Mintz-Plasse). If they can't figure out the key to calming the witch's fury, there is not telling what might become of Blithe Hollow.

ParaNorman movie photoPhoto © LAIKA, inc.

ParaNorman - Guide Review for Parents

A group of quirky and generally unattractive characters planted in the dingy town of Blithe Hollow sets the stage for this stop-motion comedy-thriller. The muted colors and fallish feel, a unique and varied soundtrack, and the eighties-style zombie horror movie theme meld together to create a stylized animated world unlike anything we've seen before. The somewhat trashy vibe is a harsh contrast to the visual beauty of Coraline, done by the same studio, but ParaNorman displays it's own brand of wonderful artistry.

Our tormented yet thick-skinned little hero, Norman, brings a wry note to the gloom and doom, and a sporadic series of comical and sometimes clever moments throughout the film add genuine fun. However, like Coraline, ParaNorman is not all fun and games. Zombies chanting "Braaaains" make up a bulk of the supporting cast, and a few scenes that could be straight out of an animated Poltergeist movie could be absolutely terrifying for children.

The movie contains a heavy amount of rude or crude humor and language along with bullying behavior. Characters in the movie insult and belittle each other. The word "jackass" is used, along with many rude words like "stupid," "loser," and "jerk." Some sexual references are made. For example, Norman dryly jokes to his mom that he's watching "sex and violence" on TV, another kid makes a references to adult video stores, a billboard shows a scantily clad witch with money sprouting out of her bosoms, and a girl hits on a guy who reveals that he already has a boyfriend.

ParaNorman uses a centuries old example -- witch hunts -- to convey a message about the importance of not letting fear rule our decisions and seeking to understand and support those who don't conform to society's standard's of what is "normal." The moral is brought straight home to today with a poignant punchline ending to the movie.

ParaNorman - Content Overview

*May contain spoilers.

  • Violence (Extreme): One word: zombies. Expect the tearing off of limbs, references to eating brains, mob violence, and more. Not to much in the way of blood and gore is shown, but this film contains a lot of mildly gruesome animation. There's also some bullying violence with kids slamming into each other, threatening each other, and more. A dead guy gets tossed around and slammed into furniture. Some poltergeist-style action results in people getting slammed against walls or trees and such.
  • Scary Scenes (Extreme): bottom line: this movie could be utterly horrifying to young kids. Even some older kids could be frightened or disturbed by images of Zombies, dead people, ghosts, and an angry ghost girl whose rage translates into a glowing sort of electrical power that illuminates her creepy yet disturbingly innocent countenance and allows her to blast electrical looking bolts of energy at people and objects as she goes mad with rage. Scary scenes occur throughout the film from the very beginning to the end.
  • Sex/Nudity (High): For an animated family movie, this film contains a lot of sexual jokes and innuendo. A boy jokes that he's watching "sex and violence" on TV. Another boy jokes that there's an adult video store nearby. A billboard shows a sexy witch with money coming out of her abundant bosoms. A boy threatens to punch another boy in the "boobs." A girl is stunned by a muscular guy wearing only a towel and tattoo. A reference to a guy having a boyfriend may lead to some questions from kids.
  • Drugs and Alcohol (Low) A couple in a restaurant have wine. Uncle P. has a whole table full of prescription pill bottles.
  • Language (High): for an animated movie marketed to kids, this movie has more rude words than most. The words "jackass" and "hell" are used. The phrase "my God," or variations of the phrase, are used several times. Numerous rude words such as "stupid," "loser," "fatty," "freak" and more are used to insult, belittle and bully.
  • Disrespectful/Imitative Behavior (Extreme): Bullying in many forms occurs in several scenes. Parents argue, and a child mocks them as he listens from another room. Some characters write on bathroom stalls and engage in other forms of graffiti. A boy watches zombie movies on TV. Mob violence ensues when the zombies enter town.
ParaNorman movie photoPhoto credit: LAIKA, inc.

  • Sad/Unsettling Scenes (High): A little ghost girl who was murdered laments that she wants her mommy. Norman tells her she will be with her mommy again. Norman deals with being ridiculed and treated like a freak by his family and bullied at school.
  • Movie Topics Kids Might Have Questions About: paranormal, ghosts, zombies, raising the dead, witch hunts, fear, what happens when we die, homosexuality, witches, trials, bullying.
Disclosure: The studio provided a free screening of this movie for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 4 out of 5
An Acceptable Movie, Member Nellporter

Though, I do agree that some of the material shown in the film was a bit mature for a PG movie, most of it is acceptable for a child under the age of 13. Many kids movies have inappropriate scenes in them, but that does not necessarily mean the entire movie was intended to be viewed by an adult. For example, the movie 'Shrek' has a couple of mature scenes, where harsh language is used, or the content was meant for older viewers, but it's still a child's movie. Overall, 'Paranorman' was a funny animated movie, which I definitely watch again.

2 out of 2 people found this helpful.

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