Allowing kids to see movies that the BBFC would deem inappropriate for their age group is all part of growing up. My innocence was destroyed when I watched The Running Man, Enter the Dragon and Scream in one sitting at a friend’s birthday sleepover. I returned home awestruck, terrified and a little wiser to the ways of the world.
But I’m glad that I didn’t have parents who were overly keen to let me watch whatever I wanted as a child. Such kids tended to have older siblings, which was always a fast track to early adult theme exposure. They also had a far-off look in their eyes, like dinky veterans of a war which they lacked the faculties to process.
ParaNorman, then, is an animated kids movie which seems to be aimed at this particular type of child. Its protagonist Norman, who is casually watching an exploitation zombie movie in the opening scene, is a misunderstood youngster who is alienated at home and at school because of his ability to see and converse with ghosts.
Living in a small New England town famed for its association with witch trials, Norman learns that his talent for post-mortem parlance is actually a power for good. A curse which will see the dead rise from their graves can only be averted by him, along with a little help from a few unwitting sidekicks.
The stop motion animation looks gorgeous, with incredible fluidity conveyed through the puppets. And at 92 minutes the film never outstays its welcome, harking back to an era when kids movies could be epic without being two and a half hour slogs (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, I am eyeballing you so hard right now).
ParaNorman also manages to be quite unsettling, which means its PG rating is really pushing towards the 12A end of the spectrum. Kids under 10 will definitely be scared, while those that are a little older will hide their terror behind fake bravado.
What the film lacks is a script with any comedic fizz. Audiences are accustomed to the likes of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and The Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists, both of which are positively engorged with jokes for kids and adults alike. ParaNorman is not without humour, but it definitely puts this on the back burner in favour of getting across its message about inclusivity and acceptance.
For kids who can’t be shocked by other movies that are aimed at them, ParaNorman could deliver a much needed jolt of excitement. Adults, on the other hand, might be left limp and lifeless in the lab. Metaphors.