Australian Council on Children and the Media

ParaNorman

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Not recommended under 10, PG to 12 due to violence and scary scenes.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for ParaNorman
  • a review of ParaNorman completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 17 January 2013.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children 10-12 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children aged 12 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: ParaNorman
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild horror themes, scary scenes and coarse language
Length 93 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Norman Babcock (voice of Kodi Smit-McPhee) is an outcast with a special gift - he is able to see and speak to the dead, including his grandmother (voice of Elaine Stritch) and numerous ghosts that roam the town’s streets. Unfortunately no one believes that Norman can talk to the dead and he is ridiculed by his family and routinely bullied by his peers at school, the chief bully being a boy called Alvin (voice of Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Norman does however have one friend and believer, an overweight young boy named Neil (voice of Tucker Albrizzi), who has his own set of peculiarities and is also routinely bullied by Alvin.

One day life suddenly becomes even more complicated for Norman when he is approached by his estranged uncle Mr. Prenderghast (voice of John Goodman), who can also see and speak to the dead. Mr. Prenderghast informs Norman that the town is in great danger from a curse cast by a witch, who was condemned and put to death by the town’s inhabitants over 300 years ago. In order for the town to be saved, Norman must perform a ritual which involves reading a passage from a special book over the dead witch’s grave at sundown on a particular night once each year. Intent on saving the town from the vengeful witch, Norman attempts to perform the ritual, however things do not go as planned, the ritual in botched and a host of zombies rise from the grave to wreak havoc on the town’s inhabitants.

It’s up to Norman to find a way to stop the zombies, and together with some new and unexpected friends including Norman’s sister, Courtney (voice of Anna Kendrick), Neil’s brother Mitch (voice of Casey Affleck) and Alvin, Norman discover the terrible truth behind the town’s curse and works to set things right.       

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

The supernatural; ghosts and zombies; bullying

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

ParaNorman contains some macabre animated violence, most of which is played for laughs in an over-the-top slapstick manner. The film also contains some scenes that depict intense peril; hurtful verbal conflict between Norman’s parents which involves Norman himself, the persecution of a young girl and school bullying.      

Examples include:

  • Norman watches a B grade movie on TV depicting cartoonish images of a woman being chased by a zombie.  The woman steps on a brain lying on the floor (the brain has a bite taken out of it) and is then chased screaming by a Zombie that crashes through the door. Norman tells his grandmother “The zombie’s eating her head” and we hear the sounds of crunching bones coming from the TV. 
  • At school Norman and Neil are the victims of intolerance and bullying. Norman is pushed to the ground and has the word “Freak” written in graffiti on his locker while Neil has the word “Fatty written on his. Norman’s peers call him names such as “Ghost Jerky” and “Goober”; a bully repeatedly threatens to “get” Norman and a bully threatens to punch Neil in his “boobs” with the bully then punching Neil in the chest.
  • In one comic scene, Norman tries to wrench a book from a dead man’s hands. The dead man refuses to let go of the book and Norman’s struggles result in the body being tossed around the room and its head being bashed against a table several times until eventually the corpse ends up landing on top of Norman with its long tongue flopping out to cover the side of his face.
  • In scenes played for laughs we see arms and appendages of zombies continuously dropping off. A zombie’s head comes off when he is hit by a car and a young man kicks the head like a football. One zombie is seen with a gaping hole through its midsection as the result of being shot in the stomach.    
  • In one humorous scene, a van containing terrified young teens is depicted speeding along a country road with a zombie hanging onto the back. At one point the zombie punches his hand through the roof of the van and grabs Neil by the neck. A policewoman on a mini-bike crashes into the van in an attempt to run the van off the road. After several attempts the policewoman flies over the bonnet of the van while the van rolls down an embankment. No one is injured.
  • In one scene depicting mob rioting and violence against zombies a woman wields a shotgun telling people “Kill them” and “Unleash the dogs of war, let’s rip them apart”.  An angry mob of townspeople, carrying clubs, brooms, rakes and flaming torches, chase zombies and zombies are shot, bashed and clubbed. A young girl throws a flaming teddy bear through the window of the town hall in an attempt to burn the zombies out. Norman and a group of his friends are in the town hall at the same time and escape uninjured.
  • In one distressing scene, Norman calls an 11 year-year-old girl ghost a bully for seeking revenge against those responsible for hanging her for being a witch. The girl cries in response.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Throughout the film we see Norman talking to a number of ghosts including his dead grandmother with whom he has extended discussions. The ghosts appear as transparent, misty figures surrounded by a green vapour. Some ghosts that Norman interacts with have signs of violent death.  
  • During a performance of a school play, Norman has a vision during which the ceiling and walls of the stage area disintegrate and transform into a dark forest, with trees that become animated and have pointed teeth and long skeletal fingers that grab at Norman. Students standing around Norman transform into corpses in various states of decomposition, telling Norman to stop the witch’s curse. Norman jumps from the stage and shouts out “The Dead are coming”.
  • The ghost of Mr. Prenderghast emerges out of a toilet bowl and talks to Norman, warning him that the town is in danger from a witch’s curse.
  • Norman climbs to the top of a tower and is struck in the chest by a bold of lightning. He is saved by a book he is holding against his chest.      
  • One scene depicts Norman stumbling down a creepy forest tunnel to land amongst a circle of ancient looking tombstones. Large menacing storm clouds appear overhead with several wispy tendrils of cloud and lightning like the arms and hands of a witch forking out of the clouds and plunging into the earth surrounding the tombstones. The ground erupts with corpse-like hands and arms breaking through the surface followed by a number of green skinned animated corpses in various states of decomposition. The zombies have rotting flesh with exposed ribcages and one has its jaw bone hanging on by a thin thread of flesh.
  • Bolts of lightning engulf a tree where a young girl was hanged 300 years earlier, and we see the ghostlike image of the young girl rise out of the tree. Norman argues with the ghost girl, who sends out bolts of lightning that hit him; Norman is uninjured. The ghost girl splits into four images that swirl around Norman like a tornado and we see the ghost girl’s image distorting and taking on a more frighting appearance with a mouth full of long sharp teeth.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also  be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

OK for this age group

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • tattoos

Sexual references

ParaNorman contains occasional low-level covert sexual references. Examples include:

  • When Norman’s father asks him what he is watching on TV Norman responds “Sex and violence”.
  • Norman makes the comment that his sister keeps a picture of a teen football player with his shirt off in her underwear drawer.    
  • After a teenage girl asks a boy out on a date the teen boy makes the comment, “You’re going to love my boyfriend, he’s a chick flick nut”

Nudity and sexual activity

The film contains some cartoonish over-exaggerated sensuality. Examples include:

  • Several female characters wear tight fitting clothing and have over exaggerated breasts and buttocks.
  • In one scene we see a young boy leering at a picture of an aerobics instructor, who is bending over and wearing brief shorts
  • One scene depicts a well-built teenage boy with a bare chest and a towel wrapped around his waist. A teen girl flirts with the boy and puts her hand on his bare chest.

Use of substances

The film contains occasional suggestion of substance use. Examples include:

  • Norman’s uncle standing in front of a table littered with an assortment of different coloured pills, and we see him grab several pills, throw them into his mouth and swallow them.
  • a brief image of a couple who appearing to be drunk - staggering and wobbling.
  • some social drinking

Coarse language

The film contains some low-level coarse language, name calling and putdowns, and toilet humour that may be imitated by children. Examples include:

  • Stupid, loser, limp-wristed hippy garbage, crazy old tramp, freak, fatty, ghost jerky, goober, hideous old crow, stinking old bum, dirty old creep, weird people, scary little fat kid, Jackass, geeks, stupid.   
  • “The statue just pissed at us”, “whole freaking town”,  “Swear like the “F” word”, “I’ll punch you in the boobs”, “I think I peed my pants”, “Get off your butt”, “Hell yeah”, “He sucks”, “Sweet baby Jesus”, “You wiener”.        

In a nutshell

ParaNorman is an animated, comedy horror film targeting older children and teens. The film was written and co-directed by Chris Butler, who was involved in the making of the films Coraline and Corpse Bride, and it has a similar feel. The violence and scary scenes make it unsuitable for under 10s, but older children will enjoy the humour and will be able to relate to the film’s content, particularly the interactions between on-screen teens and the awkwardness of adolescents. 

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Bullying causes the victims of bullying to become bullies themselves. The way to combat bullying is for the victim to reject the bully’s anger. Don’t let the anger infect you, but rather try to be kind to others instead.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Diversity - Norman is unique and different from his peers. This difference both isolates Norman from his peers and gives him unique strength that enable him to saves the life of others.
  • Friendship - Neil’s persistence in becoming Norman’s friend shows Norman the value of friendship and enables Norman to develop new strengths.  

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Norman’s friend Neil believes that bullying can’t be stopped that it is human nature. Parents may wish to discuss the real-life dangers associated with bullying and the difficulties of overcoming schoolyard bullying, and how Neil’s attitude towards bullying compounds the problem. Parents may also wish to discuss safe proactive methods children can employ to combat bullying in the schoolyard and classroom.

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