I am a hardcore animation nut. Through and through. I love anything and everything about the medium, I see every feature in theaters and do my best to snag the animated foreign films when they are readily available. Now of course this gives me a biased view on reviewing animated features but once in a blue moon there is a feature that deserves the ultimate praise. A film that hits on so many levels of perfection that all you CAN do is think about the film 24/7. A film that every time you watch it you get something new out of it, and a film you are not afraid to admit you have seen eight times and counting in theaters.
ParaNorman is the story of Norman Babcock, a misunderstood boy who talks to ghosts, takes on zombies, and saves his town from a centuries-old curse. The film is produced by the animation house Laika, the studio that brought us Coraline and many other brilliantly animated commercials. With a proven track record in stop-motion animation, Laika produced something that was way more than what I was prepared to expect: a movie with a lot of heart.
I went into the film with really high expectations and what I got was a positive emotional rollercoaster, a movie that had a message that I live and breathe by: Believe in who you are. ParaNorman was both very fresh and very nostalgic. Comic book artist Skottie Young said it best on his blog; “I got a movie with a big heart and huge laughs and to top it off, genuinely scary. It was magical.”
Everything about the movie felt so natural. The script and writing are spot on. The characters are people you know and relate to. The movie is rich with laughs and little easter eggs that only affirm all the love that was put into the film. More importantly, the adventure was true and the message was strong. After seeing the movie eight times, I was starting to think about why I loved it so much. What truly stood out to me about this movie?
And then it hit me.
In a lot of ways, the main character Norman and I are quite alike. This lead me to write my very first fan letter. Below is an excerpt.
Dear Cast and Crew of ParaNorman,
My name is Zack, and I LOVED ParaNorman…
…the reason I am writing this letter is not only to tell you personally how amazing ParaNorman is, but also to simply tell you thank you. Let me give you some background about myself. I am currently the grand ole age of 24, living on my own in Brooklyn and trying to make something of myself in the comic book and animation field. The other thing about me is I have Tourette Syndrome (TS). If you do not know what TS is, it’s a disorder characterized by involuntary verbal and physical tics. So basically I shout out, say, and do things I have no control over or mean to do. This makes being different very apparent. Now, what I am trying to get at here is what your film ParaNorman meant to me. I had a really rough childhood and the parallels that Norman overcame in the movie were all too similar to me. In a day and age where bullying is such a huge issue your movie was such a shining light. It truly had a positive message that really sank in. It showed both sides of the coin, overcoming your own adversity in a positive way while addressing the issue of bullying. I wish I had a flick like ParaNorman when I was kid. I am firm believer that we control our own happiness and success. I always tell people I may not be able to control my tics but I can manage them. As Grandma said in the movie, “There’s nothing wrong with being scared, Norman, as long as it doesn’t change who you are.” Such a beautiful quote. Embracing who you are and not letting the fear of what others think of you is an incredible message to teach. You took that notion and gave it power. Norman embraced that and showed the whole world what each of us has the potential to do. For that I thank you.
ParaNorman really struck a cord with me. We all have things we must overcome in our lives, challenges to face, obstacles to conquer, and to produce a movie that shares that message in such a positive and entertaining way is a winner my book.
And remember folks…weird wins!