Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:

Title: ParaNorman

Oh, I Get It; It's Because His Name Is "Norman" And He's Dealing With Supernatural Shenanigans. Yes, it's all a rich tapestry.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Four copies of Brian Lumley's Necroscope out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Young loner with the ability to speak with the dead must save ignorant townsfolk from witch's curse.

Tagline: "It's all fun and games until someone raises the dead."

Better Tagline: "Life ain't nothin' but witches and money."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee...jeez, poor kid) is an atypical awkward pre-adolescent, in that his awkwardness is augmented by his ability to see and converse with the spirits of the deceased, recently or otherwise. This has naturally earned him a reputation among the citizens of the New England hamlet of Blithe Meadows, including his cheerleader sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick) and school bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Indeed, his only friend is pudgy fellow outcast Neil (Tucker Albrizzi). But when the curse of a witch executed 300 years ago threatens the town, he must step up and solve the mystery.

"Critical" Analysis: Hey kids, just so you know, not every animated movie has to be about talking animals or sentient toys. Every once in a while you get a movie that treats its main characters like human beings and doesn't try to force some generic life lesson down your throats.

ParaNorman is Laika Entertainment's second big screen release (after 2009's Coraline) and feels nearly as accomplished as their debut. I never thought I'd be nostalgic for stop-motion animation (Sinbad represent!), but having sat through just about every animated movie made in the last eight years, I can safely say the look of the studio's latest is a refreshing change of pace from the usual CGI fare.

Not only that, but I think I appreciated it as much as I did because it's a standalone story that doesn't need to fit in with an established mythology, which distances it from most of DreamWorks' efforts and a few of Pixar's besides (yes folks, it's time to stop pretending Toy Story 3 was all that).

True, the overall message is a bit stale (is *everybody* misunderstood these days?), and upon closer examination this condemnation of bullying from beyond the grave -- or implying it's just as bad as in real life -- seems a bit precious. But maybe they're right, I've never been give a swirly by a poltergeist, after all.

If you're thinking of taking the kiddos, ParaNorman is a little intense. The scenes of zombies rising caused some...consternation with one of the kids I attended the screening with, but overall it's a smartly written pre-adolescent horror update. And I appreciate any flick that so capably merges survival horror with throwbacks to '50s B-movies.

ParaNorman is in theaters today. See it with your soon-to-be-dead uncle.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar