Tag Archives: frankenweenie

ParaNorman (2012)

I’ll prepare you now: I’m about to give this film the lowest rating I’ve ever given. I didn’t really enjoy it at all. It is by far my least favorite film of 2012.

ParaNorman tells the story of Norman, a boy who can see and communicate with ghosts. He is constantly made fun of by his classmates, and his father consistently tries to stifle this gift. One day, Norman’s uncle, who he’s not supposed to talk to, shows up, telling him that he must save the town from the infamous “witch’s curse” that has plagued Blithe Hollow for 300 years. Norman decides to fulfill his duty and goes on a mission to stop this witch from laying waste to the city.

I suppose I can start with the good things…I thought that the animation is well-done and appropriately grotesque. I like that character design differs from person to person (i.e. facial structure, body shape, etc.), rather than all the characters essentially having the same build with only slight variations. The stop-motion in this film is done quite well also, though the style of it is certainly different from the other Academy Award-nominated film, Frankenweenie (read my review here).

I disliked pretty much everything else. The film was filled with what I thought to be pointless scenes (one in which Norman spends two minutes attempting to pry a book from a dead man’s hands comes to mind) and others that just left me asking “why?”, such as the scene in which his uncle’s ghost appears from a toilet in the stall of the school restroom that Norman happens to be occupying at the time…why the toilet? Why then? That’s not a question for the character but for the filmmakers. Everything in a film should have its reason for existing, and I simply can’t find the reason for that scene and for others. The humor found in the movie was typically very unfunny for me, and most of the characters were completely flat and uninteresting, including Norman. I didn’t care what happened to him, and I didn’t understand his motives for anything. Why would he choose to try to fend off this witch based on incomplete information given to him by his crazy uncle? As for the motivation of other characters, why do his sister and other friends suddenly make the decision to stand by his side when the time comes despite having done anything but that beforehand?

Maybe I’m looking too much into this. Maybe I should think, “oh, this is a kid’s film” and approach it appropriately. But kids’ films should be better than that. I don’t know why critics have given this film such favorable reviews, but I did not like it. To be fair, I will probably give this a second chance somewhere down the road…after all, I own it on Blu-Ray. And maybe I’ll change my mind about it, in which case I will let you all know. But for now, I think that ParaNorman is a movie that suffers from poor characters, lame humor, and a lackluster script. While it does contain positive messages about finding the good in people around you, not bullying others because they are different, and being who you are no matter what others say, it’s just not a film that I would recommend.

-Chad

Rating: 1.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language


Frankenweenie (2012)

I was sick of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie before I ever saw it. The trailer was attached to nearly every film I saw in theaters over the summer, driving it into my head to the point that I would change the television channel whenever the trailer popped up during commercial breaks. I’m not traditionally a huge Burton fan, though I certainly enjoy films like 1989’s Batman and 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (story by Burton, also produced by him, but directed by Henry Selick), and this just wasn’t a film that was on my must-see list. With the approach of the Academy Awards, though, and with Frankenweenie‘s nomination for Best Animated Feature, I finally got a hold of a copy of the film on Blu-Ray and watched through…and I was impressed.

Frankenweenie is based on the live-action short film of the same name from 1984, also directed by Burton, and is about a boy (Charlie Tahan) whose only friend is his dog, Sparky. When Sparky is hit by a car and killed, the boy is understandably devastated…oh, and I forgot to mention that the boy’s name is Victor Frankenstein (hint hint). Victor sets out to bring his beloved best friend back to life and succeeds. Everything is right with the world until the word gets out that Victor has brought back his dog from the dead, and, suddenly, everyone wants in on it. Chaos ensues!

The close bond shared between Victor and Sparky is made very clear from the start of the film, making Sparky’s untimely death all the more devastating, but it also makes it that much rewarding when Victor succeeds in bringing him back to life. Victor’s character arc is a strong one, as he realizes that re-animating the dead is not necessarily the best option and that sometimes it is necessary to let go of the ones that you love – a lesson that we all learn at some point in our lives, whether it’s with a pet or with a friend or family member. Themes such as the strength of friendship and love, persistence, the implications of science, letting go, and family expectation are all addressed throughout the film, making it a sort of educational experience without it ever feeling like preaching.

Where Frankenweenie succeeds the most, however, is in its references to classic horror films – plus a reference to Burgermeister Meisterburger from the 1970 stop-motion Rankin/Bass film Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. While watching, I found references or allusions to the following horror films or actors: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Vincent Price, Jurassic ParkGremlinsDracula, Psycho and Godzilla…and I know that there have to be even more than that; I’m not as well-versed in classic horror films as I would like to be. It’s really quite impressive to see so many films referenced in one.

One of the most interesting aspects of this movie is that it is presented in black and white, likening itself back to the typical horror films found in the 1930s-1950s. The lack of color gives the classic sort of “Burton-esque” feel a refreshing new twist, deviating from the vibrant colors and extravagant set designs from more recent Burton films such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Alice in Wonderland. The stop-motion animation is seamless, never feeling like a stop-motion film. 

I was quite prepared to dislike this film…it just didn’t seem to be my cup of tea, but Frankenweenie impresses on both technical and narrative grounds. The voice acting (from actors such as Martin Short, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, and Catherine O’Hara) is top-notch throughout, and the story is both endearing and slightly disturbing. In my opinion, this is Burton’s best film in some time. Even Danny Elfman’s score is refreshing atypical of his usual work, managing to be more intimate than bombastic (for once). Will Frankenweenie win the Academy Award? It might…but we’ll see.

-Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for thematic elements, scary images and action