- Best Animated Feature
A review by spacedcowboy:
For three movies in this category this year, the first paragraph of my review is the same:
“This category causes me heartburn. Year after year, some of the best movies of the year land in the category of Animated Feature. This year, although there are some terrific live-action movies for a change, it is no different. The animated films all incorporate the eternal elements of story, and serve as a reminder of how films should be.”
Plot synopsis from imdb.com:
In the town of Blithe Hollow, Norman Babcock is a boy who can speak to the dead, but no one besides his eccentric new friend, Neil, believes his ability is real. One day, Norman’s estranged eccentric uncle tells him of an important annual ritual he must take up to protect the town from an curse cast by a witch it condemned centuries ago. Eventually, Norman decides to cooperate, but things don’t go according to plan. Now, a magic storm of the witch threatens Blithe Hollow as the accursed dead rise. Together with unexpected new companions, Norman struggles to save his town, only to discover the horrific truth of the curse. With that insight, Norman must resolve the crisis for good as only he can. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This film is one of my greatest personal surprises this year. In general, I don’t like zombie stories, or indeed stories of films that otherwise deal with stories that I deem fall in the realm of “scary.” I don’t watch horror movies and, by and large, I don’t even watch harmless films that introduce the elements that those movies use (zombies, ghosts, etc.) I have a vivid imagination, and I don’t do well introducing such elements into an already active subconscious mind…
Having said that, I was fairly ambivalent about Paranorman. Even though it appeared fairly early on that “scary” topics would be dealt with in a fashion that wouldn’t keep me awake at night, I still was not certain that it was a movie I wanted to watch.
I am more than happy to report I was wrong.
Paranorman is a delightful story.
At face value it is a story of Norman, a young boy who sees dead people. It is the story of his journey to right a wrong that his ancestors committed in his town long ago. It is a story of zombies come to life in response to an ancient curse in response to the sins of his fathers, and the efforts of Norman, along with unwilling and unbelieving friends and family, to stem the tide of horror.
This is an old and familiar story.
It is not the story of this movie, however.
Like all great films, the story you see is not the story you are watching. This film is the story of youth and of ostracization. It is the story of society, and well-meaning members of society, making a tragic mistake that ruins a life. It is the larger story of the consequences of their decision echoing through the generations. It is a story of bullies, of popular girls, of not-so-popular young boys – all making their way in their young lives independently, and then together, in the rich stories that weave their ways into the ever-dramatic lives of youth. It is also a story of parents finding their children, generations crossing, and citizens finding their identity and a new truth, in the context of something that history has taught us as true, but yet is not.
And it is a story that zombies may not actually be zombies, if you just take a moment to hear their story. They may need to eat your brains, but it may be that they are asking you, with all that remains of their soul, for something else.
I applaud this film for the deep and complex story. I am similarly impressed with the story given to all characters: not just Norman, but to all his characters who are obstacles, antagonists and foils. I thought this was a story about zombies and I was wrong. It was a story of dreams, of youth, of forgiveness, of popularity and oddballs, and of horror reaching out for forgiveness too.
It is a story about not repeating the mistakes of our past. It is a story about brothers and sisters. It is a story about so much more.
In the category of Animated Feature, Brave has my nod, but I’ll admit that I think Paranorman may be the more complete film. I have been advocating so long for an animated film with a kick-ass Princess that I’ll admit my choice may be biased. Both are great films, however, and The Pirates deserves its place among these film as well. My advice is to watch them all and decide for yourself…