“ParaNorman”  (A Nickell-odeon Review)

August 28, 2012

The new animated movie, ParaNorman, is rated PG, meaning “Parental Guidance suggested.” However, I would recommend a different rating: RIP.

Now, RIP commonly means Rest in Peace, a bit of tombstone shorthand that could be adapted to certain death-themed movies. In this case the nerdy 11-year-old star, Norman Babcock (the voice of Kodi Smit-McPhee), sees dead people. (In addition to The Sixth Sense, other movies that would have been appropriately rated RIP are The Amityville Horror, The Haunting in Connecticut, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and many, many more.)

However, I really suggest using RIP as a rating to especially mean “for Really Immature Persons only”—and I am not referring to children. (They, certainly, need no more pro-supernatural propaganda foisted on their receptive little minds.) No, I refer instead to those ghost-hunting pseudoscientific adults who believe that spirits of the dead may be detected by Geiger counters and other gadgets, as well as by “psychics”—who invariably prove to have fantasy-prone personalities. (See my new book, The Science of Ghosts, pp. 259–312.)

Such Really Immature Persons should feel right at home watching Norman at home with a ghost—namely that of his dead grandmother with whom he watches spooky movies on TV. Norman also sees other dead, shimmery folk who populate his neighborhood, and, soon, ghoulish entities that are transformed by a witch’s curse into a zombie apocalypse.

You’re right: It does all sound like a spoof, a bit of it even appealingly skeptical, as when one character huffs, “Not believing in the Afterlife is like not believing in astrology!” But in this movie it is not a skeptical, rational message that prevails. Instead, one’s sympathies are drawn to the opposite, to an outsider kid who’s misunderstood and lampooned as “abNorman.” The movie’s Ultimate Message is that Norman was really right: the dead are, well, alive after all.

So even though ParaNorman has much of a praiseworthy nature—excellent stop-action animation (utilizing puppets and physical sets), an anti-bullying message, and more—it has all been perverted to serve yet another Hollywood hustle in promotion of the paranormal. In other words, it is a RIPoff; may it attract only those appropriate for its RIP rating (again, that’s “for Really Immature Persons only”), and may it soon RIP.

Rating: one wooden nickel (out of four)

One Nickel