My family and I really wanted to see the film Paranorman in theaters together. We’re big stop animation fans and my daughter loves Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas. That said, she is only seven, and we haven’t let her watch Coraline yet. In fact, we haven’t let her watch any movies like these unless we’ve already seen them and determined their fear factor, so we decided to wait and see it ourselves on DVD first.
I am so glad we did that. We rented the movie to watch on my husband’s birthday last night and it was pretty scary for kids. It wasn’t really gory or anything, but there were a couple of make-you-jump moments as well as a few that made me think my daughter would be quite scared. She still gets scared watching Scooby Doo, so I usually have a good feeling about what she can tolerate.
The movie is really good. It’s funny, ironic, and has a lovely message about what fear can do to people if they let it change them—a message we’re not often given in movies, children’s or otherwise. I love the animation so much because every character is “abnormal;” you will find every body type from stick-thin figures to wobbly, fat bodies, a refreshing change from the typical animated feature with people of all the same body type. Even the faces are all differently shaped.
The hero of the story is, of course, Norman, but his fat friend Neil cannot be overlooked. Just as Norman stands up to the spirit haunting the town—a completely different spirit from the legend the town believes, by the way—Neil stands up to the bullies who taunt him and Norman, reaches out to Norman as a friend, embraces his fatness and other quirks, and even defends Norman from a man whom he believes to be a threat who is much bigger than him. Once she’s old enough, I will have no problem with my kiddo watching these characters at all.
Something else you’ll find in Paranorman is the first openly gay cartoon character that I can think of. It’s a complete surprise, so I won’t give it away, but all I could do was grin. Even though it was meant to be a funny moment, I still appreciate it in the film. Now if only there were more females and people of color in it…