TV Party is a new Friday feature in which Film Editors Dominick Mayer and Justin Gerber alongside Editor-in-Chief Michael Roffman suggest one movie apiece to enjoy over the weekend. Joining them each week will be two rotating film staff writers to help round out the selections. Seek out any of the films via Netflix, Amazon, Redbox, Hulu, OnDemand, or abandoned Blockbuster and Hollywood Video stores — however you crazy kids watch movies these days! Enjoy ’em for the first time, a second, or maybe a redemptive third.
Admittedly, I’m cheating a bit with this week’s entry, because I just published a piece earlier in the week about Laika, but seriously, ParaNorman is essential viewing. As Norman, Kodi Smit-McPhee embodies every weird kid in school who wasn’t particularly off or dangerous or unfriendly, but was just too strange to relate to their peers. And when Norman’s gift for communicating with the dead leads to him having to save the good(ish) people of Blithe Hollow from a centuries-old witch, it’s not as though Norman suddenly becomes an unlikely hero. He’s still a misfit, trying to rescue a bunch of people who’re either too dumb or too uninterested to care.
As both a slyly subversive family movie and a loving homage to horror fandom and to the Hammer creepshows of yore, ParaNorman excels. It has a lot to say about forgiveness and ignorance and the emptiness of revenge, all within a darkly comic, visually breathtaking lark. In its lack of overexertion to appeal to all audiences, ParaNorman does precisely that. Its innate understanding of what makes the macabre appealing to kids of all ages, and how that gets warped in ever sadder directions as we get older, is remarkable stuff for what was written off by some as another Burton-esque, gothic, stop-motion flick.