I was late to the party, but [expletive deleted] did I enjoy this film.
It’s a witty romp with a fresh genre bend — ramming together a Witch/Revenge number and a Zombie/Comedy with an iron fist in a velvet glove: it’s forceful and smoooooth.
The cast of characters has something of a ’90s feel to it — related in spirit and tone to The Goonies and Hocus Pocus.
My favorite part about the film — aside from a juvenile joke involving the sign of the “Witchy Weiners” hot dog restaurant — is how consciously it plays with genre and setting. The aesthetic seems in many ways like a cold war period piece — the decor, the appliances, the cars — but the prominence of the cell phone seems strangely fitting. Whether intentional or not, it made me think of parallels between the contemporary political (and cultural) climate and those of the early to mid Cold War. The thoughts were not comforting, though they were welcome.
Aside from making me think, the film just kept me lauging, it’s well-written, well-animated, and well-voiced, with superb attention to detail. I plan on watching it again soon just for the detail.
SPOILER ALERT: What follows will ruin the movie for you a bit, so… don’t read it unless you’ve seen it.
So, the zombies in Paranorman are pretty interesting in that they are the result of a Witch’s curse. They are also benevolent and misunderstood, the rioting townspeople — who all attempt to enact the kind of mayhem we’re accustomed to seeing in our cultural texts (and the idea that the entire town is familiar with zombie narratives is refreshing, too). The zombies just take it and try to explain their plight. This simple move in a children’s film (though, certainly Paranorman delivers for the whole family) does some heavy intellectual lifting: it highlights a certain ideology of violence promoted by zombie films (the logic of survival, based on the idea that the undead are a sort of bare life), while demonstrating that extreme violence (a strong immune reaction, if you will) is not always the most effective way to achieve security.
I’ll have more thoughts on this after a second (and maybe third) watch, but it’s definitely a keeper.