Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Perfect. Now the geeks are in charge.

Raise your hand when you hear the tone, okay?

I was probably in fifth or sixth grade when I took my last hearing test, but I'll never forget it (neither will my family, as I repeat this story all the time). The woman was going through what I'm sure was standard test protocol right up until the very end. The last time I raised my hand, she looked at me in disbelief. You heard that? No one ever hears the last one! 

Apparently, I had a gift. I could hear just about anything. Well, as long as it was alive.

ParaNorman, from the stop-motion wizards that brought us Coraline (and that are currently bringing us The Boxtrolls), tells the tale of a rather unspectacular kid named Norman. This kid, your seemingly average middle-schooler, just so happens to be blessed/cursed with his own special power: the ability to communicate with the dead.

It's never the popular kid that has the gift, no, it's always the lovable goofball, and trust me, Norman is no different. While he's awesomely fascinated by creepy stuff and horror flicks, his family would unsurprisingly prefer he never mention his gift and just be normal. But when a three-hundred year old curse is unleashed upon Norman's macabre town, guess who's going to come up huge? Yep, you nailed it: Norman's chubby friend Neil.

Okay, that's not really what happens, but as is the case with most family flicks, you can see the resolution coming a mile away. But while the outcome may not surprise you, some of the content will. Turns out, ol' m. brown ain't the sharpest tool in the shed. He sat the family down to what he thought would be a quirky Halloween-ish good time. Um, about that...

While I wasn't really blown away by the film as a whole (though it is undeniably the ugliest way possible), I was somewhat shocked at some of the little touches that made ParaNorman likely appropriate for kids much older than my five year old son (not to mention one year old daughter). I mean, ridiculous, right? You'd think a movie about a kid that talks to dead people would be ideal entertainment for a kindergartner! I mean, it's not like I'm a bad parent that doesn't look into these things. Or you know, patiently consider things.

Anyway, the message of acceptance and understanding of each other's differences that ParaNorman offers is always welcome, and the flick has tons of heart. If you're looking for some animated Halloween-related goodness, you could do worse, but I'll probably just hit up Hotel Transylvania [review] next time, if not The Nightmare Before Christmas (only because I think Halloween Town is the coolest place ever). My son lost interest, my wife lost interest, and honestly -for a minute- I did, too. But I'm glad I hung in, as the ending was sweet and almost got me choked up for a second. That might not be saying much, however.

What is definitely not saying much, are the Yays and Boos. Ever since ol' reality struck, these two have been on a near-permanent hiatus. At least the Yays have, anyway, as teaching middle school provides plenty of chances for the Boos. Even some Wooots, too, for you savvy types.

If you ever walked in on me brushing my teeth, there's a 50/50
chance I'm doing this too. No, really.
  • Like I said, this movie is really beautiful...even if everyone is really ugly.
  • I know I already mentioned him, but I loved Neil so much. He's such a good kid, I can't stand it. And that scene when he plays with his dog? Aww.
  • You mean, like the F-word?
  • That was probably the best ringtone ever.
  • The bully kid, played by McLovin', had no right to be as funny as he was. Those were some sick beats he was break dancing to.
  • Oh, man. Freeze-framing mom's workout DVD? I'm not sure what that's more, awesome or pathetic? But I love it just the same.
  • Vending Machine Guy. I love this dude.
  • And finally, the ending. Not only how it came together (and how cool it looked), but it really showed that Norman, despite the way he had been treated for most of his life, was a really, really sweet kid. Yes, even though he is an imaginary character in a stop-motion flick, his little gestures toward Aggie and what she was going through made me smile. Turns out, if you're twelve, you don't have to be a jerk. Who knew?
  • Norman kind of trips out a lot in the beginning. I think this is where my son was like, And...I'm out.
  • Good Lord! I think Norman's mom may be the most heinous-looking animated character ever. 
  • Ah, yes. The time honored tradition of Gruff Dad not understanding his Quirky Son? It's alive and well here.
  • The zombie Townspeople kind of bummed me out. Not only were they extra-weird looking, but they were also kind of sad, too. Like, depressingly so. Actually, the modern townsfolk bummed me out, too, now that I think about it.
  • And finally, the big kid stuff. Grandma, who's dead, drops a Jackass! like she's that guy in Happy Gilmore. Sis hits us with a Hell yeah, on top of coming off as a huge slut for Neil's gay brother. And Aggie, as much as I liked her, is basically completely f--king terrifying in her scary form. Oh, and there's the fact THAT EVERYONE'S DEAD, always a fun conversation to have with the little ones. Okay, that last one? That's on me. I'll take it.
While Norman used his gift to save the day and bring his family closer together, I can't say that my super-hearing has ever come in real handy. Unless of course you count hearing every awful thing middle schoolers say about each other (not to mention me) as being useful. Or consistently squelching the overwhelming desire to punch in the face whomever is eating withing five feet of me as an admirable trait, then I'm really not offering much, huh? We can agree on that fairly easily. Or as my grandfather would put it...

I hear ya.


  1. Lol. Sometimes I forget what it's like to have small kids. Mine are teens so none of this really bothered us. We had a fun time with it. Now I'm curious to know if you watched Frankenweenie with them, a better and possibly creepier film, btw.

    1. Yeah,'re long out of the woods, aren't you? Teenagers! I'm still changing diapers.

      As for the flick, it was totally my bad - the iffy content and such. I've been desperately trying to maintain a 'Halloween movies all month' vibe and essentially forced this one on the family. Oops.

      I think Frankenweenie was a much better movie, but still another one that no one else in my family actually wanted to watch. I wonder what is about seeing the dead brought back to life that doesn't interest my wife and kids? Weirdos.