What is it, that the Dead can’t get along with the Living? There is a ton of stuff going on in the recently-released ParaNorman, both Transcendentally and Karmically- which truthfully, didn’t interest me as much as the unusually enlightened take on Witches. To begin, the titular “Para-Norman” is one of those kids who “sees dead people; they’re all around him.” If you don’t catch the reference, it doesn’t matter, as ParaNorman takes place in a Transcendental World of its own, caught between the Deceased and the Living.
It is a very funny movie, with much humor deriving naturally and organically from the cartoon-characters, presented with a sharp degree of wit. Among the many satiric touches that I loved was the placement of the film in a Massachusetts town called Blithe Hollow, that (kind of like Salem) takes its character from its Witch-Hunting past. A huge “Welcome Visitors” sign shows happy Puritans, and a jolly, waving Witch swinging from a gallows. In Blithe Hollow, Witch posters, shtick, and advertising dot the streets. Restaurants are called “Witch Kitchen”; fast-food franchises are “Witch Wieners”; and a billboard promotes “Witch Casino,” with a picture of a Witch flush with winnings. A forbidding Crone-like statue of Blithe Hollow’s Witch-of-Legend is erected outside Town Hall, and the history of how the Puritan Town Fathers condemned the Witch Agatha Prenderghast to death (to have her deliver a fearsome Curse) is acted out in grade-school pageants (directed by a hilariously over-the-top drama teacher).
Want to bet that Norman’s ability to see and speak with the Dead is going to come in very handy before the Witch’s Curse takes effect, and the Dead rise from their Graves? The movie is interesting for presenting the Puritan Town Fathers as a harsh, judgmental lot, and for sympathetically adopting the point-of-view of the accused Witch (who, when she appears, initially gives the impression that Wednesday Addams is making a cameo).
ParaNorman borders on the Shamanic, in its certainty of Planes of Existence beyond the Veil of Mortality (expressed finally in an impressively Pagan scene involving a Transcendental Tree). For its meditations upon Life beyond this Mortal Coil- and for its identification with the “weirdos and freaks” who may be drawn to the supernatural (and things like Witchcraft)- and for its intensely sympathetic and funny Witch-focus- the film makes an excellent Pagan family-movie- especially with October just around the bend!