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Oscar®Oscar® Nominee for Best Animated Feature Film
Movie Review


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

Reviewed by: Kirsten Palmer

Offensive—not recommended
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Kids Teens Family
Stop-Motion Animation Adventure Fantasy Comedy Horror Thriller 3D
1 hr. 33 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
August 17, 2012 (wide—3,100+ theaters)
DVD: November 27, 2012
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Focus Features

FEAR OF DARK—Child afraid of the dark? How can I help my child to trust in God’s care when she is afraid at night? Answer

FEAR, Anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? Answer

courage / bravery


ghosts in the Bible

death and final judgment

witches and witchcraft


curses in the Bible


eternal life and eternal death

resurrection of the dead


Teen Qs—Christian Answers for teenagers
Teens—Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.
Kid Explorers
Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.
Featuring: Kodi Smit-McPhee … Norman Babcock (voice)
Tucker Albrizzi … Neil (voice)
Anna KendrickCourtney (voice)
Casey AffleckMitch (voice)
Christopher Mintz-PlasseAlvin (voice)
Leslie MannSandra Babcock (voice)
John GoodmanMr. Prenderghast (voice)
more »
Director: Sam Fell—“The Tale of Despereaux,” “Flushed Away
Chris Butler
Producer: Laika Entertainment—“Coraline,” “The Boxtrolls” (2014)
Travis Knight … producer
more »
Distributor: Focus Features

“You don’t become a hero by being normal.”

Welcome to Blithe Hollow, a small town that is proud of its history, especially an incident akin to the Salem Witch Trials. Hundreds of years ago, a council of seven elders held trial to persecute and execute a witch. Upon her death, she cursed the village and promised she would return some day and raise the dead, getting her revenge by ultimately condemning the souls of her persecutors/victims to eternal damnation. In present day Blithe Hollow, the city is all decked out in various witchy themed shops, signs and statues. Now meet Norman, a young boy with a unique talent: the ability to see and speak with the spirits of the dead. Misunderstood by everyone—his father, his sister, his schoolmates—Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is determined to avoid everyone. Teased and taunted by all, he is called a weirdo and a freak. The only ones who seem to accept Norman as he is are his mother (Leslie Mann) and his friend Neil (Tucker Albrizzi).

Recently, Norman’s gift starts to turn into a curse when he starts seeing things. These new visions are all pointing him to the witch’s curse which is threatening to come true. A dirty, seemingly homeless and “crazy” man that Norman has always been told to avoid seeks Norman out to warn him about the witch’s curse and to prepare Norman to stop it. This “crazy” man turns out to be Norman’s uncle, Mr. Prenderghast (John Goodman), who also has the gift to speak with the dead. After he dies, Mr. Prenderghast’s spirit makes contact with Norman and tells him what he needs to do to stop the witch’s curse, but he only has until sundown tonight.

After a school performance gone awry, thanks to Norman’s visions, he has been grounded. Left at home with his teenage sister to watch him, Norman sneaks out to stop the witch from returning and raising the dead from the grave. En route to performing the task, Norman bumps into the school bully, Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who then follows Norman to the graveyard. Meanwhile, his sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick) discovers that Norman has left and sets out to find him. She goes to his friend’s house, and meets Neil’s older brother Mitch (Casey Affleck). Trying to win Mitch’s affection, Courtney asks for his help in finding Norman. After Neil confesses what Norman is up to, they head out to find him.

Unbeknownst to them, Alvin has prevented Norman from stopping the curse, and they’re a little busy running away from the zombies. Norman, Courtney, Mitch and Neil all get in Mitch’s van to get away from the zombies and to try to figure out what went wrong and how to stop the zombies from attacking and eating everyone. However, the zombies reach the town and chaos ensues, as the townspeople start fighting the zombies. The chase leads to the historic Town Hall which may hold the answer Norman is looking for, but only if the townspeople are willing to admit his talent is the real thing and not a figment of his imagination.

The film includes some inappropriate language. I counted one “OMG,” two “d**nations,” one “jack***,” one “p*ssed,” an exclamation of “Sweet Baby Jesus,” and references to hell. While it wasn’t said, there is a reference to the “f-word.” There was name calling, some aimed at Norman (freak, weirdo, loser), some aimed at Neil (fat, fatty). We even see some of these spray painted on their lockers. When someone asks Norman what he’s watching on television, he responds “sex and violence.” During a rehearsal for the school play, the teacher calls all the students a “useless bunch of-” and then it cuts to the next scene.

During one scene, we see a billboard advertising the “Lucky Witch Casino,” with a picture of a woman in a suggestive pose with cash sticking out of her cleavage. While searching at the town hall, Alvin mentions an adult video store across the street. We see Mitch in only a towel when he answers the door, , and he catches Neil “freeze-framing” an aerobics DVD on the instructor’s rear end. Also, we learn Courtney’s attempts to flirt with Mitch are all for nothing as he tells us his boyfriend is into chick flicks—an audible gasp went through the theater, after this remark.

The mood and scenery throughout the film is all dark and creepy looking. There is a lot of imagery of witches, zombies, brains, zombies eating brains, skulls and references to Ouija boards. There’s a good bit of what I would refer to as “gross-out” scenes involving the zombies dead, decaying bodies, they show Mr. Prenderghast die, and also when Norman goes to visit Mr. Prenderghast’s body. We also see Alvin squash a bug with his hand, and it shows the bug guts left behind on the locker door. If you’ve seen the trailer, then you’ve seen the image of Neil kissing something… and while we don’t see it, the audience understands he’s kissing a ghost dog’s behind.

Buried under the deluge of a worldly view of the afterlife, there is actually a nice story being told. A child with an extraordinary gift has given up the struggle to fit in. He has already made up his mind that he has to deal with his problems and tasks alone, but, despite this, his friend Neil is determined to be a good friend. Even at the point where Courtney, Mitch and Alvin want to give up on Norman and leave him to his weirdness, Neil stands up and says he won’t leave Norman, and tells his brother Mitch, “You can’t make me.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12—“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”

However, Mitch picks Neil up and carries him away and leaves Norman alone to his seemingly impossible task. Of course, Norman feels alone, he listens to his parents argue about him and his obsession with dead people and ghosts. His mother says he’s just sensitive, but his father is very hard on Norman. Norman hears all the negativity his father feels towards him. This is not how a father should treat his son, even if he isn’t what he thought his son should be.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21).

Any time Norman tries to explain what he has been through, no one listens to him or they chalk it up to his imagination or believe him to be insane. At some point, Norman has to deal with the witch and the cause for her curse—revenge. People were mean to her, and so her chosen course of action is to be meaner back. The Bible makes it clear that we are not to get revenge on our enemies, the vengeance belongs to God (Leviticus 19:18; Romans 12:17-21; 1 Peter 3:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:15). We are called by God to love our enemies (Luke 6:27).

The movie is definitely dark in nature, and I would definitely not bring the little ones to this movie. While opportunities abound for discussions of what the Bible tells us about the afterlife, witches, dying and resurrections, Hell and those who speak with the dead (or claim to), I would recommend choosing another flick for the big kids, as well.

Leviticus 19:31—“Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them”

One other thing worth mentioning is God has given each of His children a gift, He grants us each talents. It won’t be like Norman’s gift of seeing and speaking with the dead, but our gifts are to be used for His glory and furthering His kingdom (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Peter 4:10-11; 1 Corinthians 12). If you do decide to try this one out, and if you have the choice of seeing it in 2D or 3D, I say save your money and see it in regular 2D. I watched it in 3D and was not at all impressed.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—This film was enjoyable, if not a little shakey at some points. The pace of the movie was very odd at first, and I nearly lost interest, but it made up for that as the film progressed. I was surprised by a few curse words, and am on the fence as to whether this should have been rated PG-13. As such, I don’t think it would be appropriate for young children who would repeat them (or who are easily frightened). I actually teared up at a few points in this movie-besides the obvious “grossness” and zombie aspect meant to appeal to teens, the core of the movie is about learning how to embrace your uniqueness. Instead of hiding and being defensive to everyone who approaches, the main character (and another person) learns to open up and embrace who he is—even if it freaks a few people out. That lesson might not be appreciated by everyone, but it hit home for me for personal reasons.

This film, of course, is based heavily in paranormal lore and includes things like witchcraft and ghosts. If that’s not your cup of tea, this movie should be avoided. I personally took it as silly fantasy (there is also a lesson buried in it, if you do decide to see the film). The cursing is the only “objectionable” thing I personally see about this film, and even then it’s not nearly as bad as a prime-time television show. Nothing about it made me feel out of sorts with my beliefs—I think it’s just a silly (and slightly heartwarming) show that should keep some older teens enjoyed for an hour and a half.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Shira, age 26 (USA)
Neutral—The movie ParaNorman did have a lot of negative content. There were too many swear words, and it should’ve been rated PG-13. The movie does, however, teach that you must forgive others, even if they wronged you. One of the important characters tells another character that revenge will not solve anything, just like the Bible tells us that vengeance belongs to the Lord. Proverbs 20:22—Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jenny, age 20 (USA)
Negative—Think and READ before you take your kids to see PARANORMAN. Let me begin by saying that I WOULD NOT recommend this film to anyone. I normally turn to this site to seek out reviews, before taking my family to see a movie. Unfortunately, no reviews were posted here. I didn’t know much about it, but my kids were asking to go. It’s rated PG, so I figured it would be a funny animated kids’ movie. Unfortunately, it turned into something completely different. As I sat in the theater with my family, I could not believe my eyes and ears. It’s bad enough that Hollywood feels that they need to insert various scenes of subtle adult humor into all kids movies these days, but this film puts it right out in the open.

Off the top of my head, this is what I can remember: A young child is watching an exercise video and freeze framing it on a woman’s rear end. Another young teen says that he would rather be locked inside of an adult video store than in a library. This same character has many other inappropriate actions, including grabbing a girl’s behind. We also have a teenage girl drooling over a teen boy (shirtless in a towel), and she touches him. Later, we have a teen boy talking about his boyfriend. And this is all in a film aimed at young children. There are also instances of inappropriate language in the film. Although animated, there is violence and evil portrayed.

The quality of the animation is good, and there are some interesting parts of the story. However, everything else takes away any merit this film might have. My patience is growing thin with Hollywood. As Christians, and as parents, we need to stand together and demand quality entertainment from the studios. Hollywood only understands dollar signs. Stop spending the money on these movies and start spending them on something better. If we do this enough, Hollywood will change.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—David, age 45 (USA)
Negative—Truth is, I enjoyed the movie, the 3D, and the fun, and the adventure… but as a Christian I couldn’t even rate this as a neutral! First of all, this is a secular world’s education to kids. Premature sexuality, homosexuality, appreciation of porn and depreciation of education, Ouija boards—expected from a movie titled which rhymes with paranormal, morally objective scenes… This is definitely not a film for kids, but I am sure the kids are dying to see the movie and forcing the parents to take them to the movies. If you still wanted to take the kids to movie, you have to explain about the above mentioned twisted worldview.

Unfortunately, even a liberal reviewer, like me, couldn’t elevate the movie in any aspects, even the good aspects of the movie were marred by the over stated negative themes. It should be a PG-18 movie, as it portray alternate lifestyles, immorality and paranormal in a glorious viewpoint, while non-Christian religions are more appreciated in the movie than Christianity. Christianity is simply ignored and depreciated in Paranorman. We should send the message to Hollywood that we’re not appreciating these type of movies for kids. I have no problem with an adult Christian seeing the movie, if he can brush it off as a silly flick and enjoy only the adventure parts and the few positive parts, while criticizing the negative aspects. Finally, again, a simple suggestion—THIS IS NOT A MOVIE FOR KIDS and CHRISTIANS!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Cyril Thomas, age 32 (United Kingdom)
Negative—After seeing the movie “Paranorman,” I decided I needed to find a Christian Web site that I can agree with in their reviews of movies. I agree whole heartily with you (Ms. Palmer) and others who have commented. Another, supposedly “Christian” site praised the “gay” portion of the movie calling it a “refreshing positive portrayal of a gay character”. What misguided folks. While I love all people, I do not have to love someone’s choice in lifestyle, especially when, according to the Bible, it is wrong. It is talked about on so many things from movies (especially children’s shows) to television programs. Enough already! Thank you for an honest Christian review. I will definitely come to this site for each review before taking my children to the movies from now on. I was also appalled at the poor language and sad moral direction it took. What is our society coming to. Skip this one, if you have not seen it yet!! I am glad Disney turned it down.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Nancy, age 44 (USA)
Negative—We walked out of “Paranorman” and got a refund after a character in this movie swore. I think we were 30 minutes into the film. In hindsight, we should have left right away. My eight-year-old was really excited about “Paranorman,” as she had seen multiple trailers for it at other kids” movies. Though it’s being marketed to kids, as a “family film,” the language and suggestive material was very upsetting to watch; I was sitting there with my daughter, who hasn’t heard a lot of swearing and doesn’t know anything about sex—I doubt she’s even heard that word. Why would I want her exposed to that in an animated film? I simply can’t understand why the creators of this movie thought it was necessary and acceptable.

We may have enjoyed the film, if not for the swearing and suggestive material. Didn’t anyone along the way—the directors, producers, even the actors—say, “Hey, there are going to be kids watching this? Would I take my six-year-old niece to see this? Do I want to have to explain to her what sex is, or the f-word, after we get done watching “Paranorman”?” Lesson learned, on my part—I will definitely be more careful about what PG movies we take our child to from now on. Thanks for the site—it will help me make a better choice next time!
—Melissa, age 41 (USA)
Negative—This movie should not have been rated PG. It should be rated at least PG-13. We took our children and ended up leaving and getting our money back. This is not a movie for Christian families. It seems that Hollywood keeps pushing the envelope and America keeps getting worse morally. We need to make sure we always make the right choices for our children, and I feel we did when we left the movie. We did not make a scene, we just left and asked for a refund. Regal Cinemas was more than understanding. Do not take your children to this, my fellow brother and sisters in CHRIST! GOD BLESS!!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Mike, age 37 (USA)
Negative—I decided to go see a movie, and, on a whim, I went to see “Paranorman.” as it is catered to the family audience. Like Melissa, I almost walked out about ½ an hour into the film, and then was sorry I didn’t, by the end. This film’s premise is enough to turn off many Christians… a boy has the ability to communicate with the dead and has magical abilities. People who are dead, including his grandma, are ghosts. This has the potential to scare a lot of children and promotes negative ideas about death, from a Christian perspective.

The writers also decided to present things in a very vulgar manner. There are many inappropriate things that the characters do and say. In one scene, Norman is trying to get a book away from a corpse, and it lands on top of him, which is verging on “mutilation of remains.” Even the characters themselves are vulgar in the way they have been illustrated, with certain parts of their bodies exaggerated.

I also feel the movie encourages bullying. Norman and his friend both experience bullying by having kids say mean things and also write on their lockers. His friend has “Fatty” written on his. The comment is made that bullying is just part of childhood and that if Norman was big, he probably would be a bully, too. It goes on to portray the overweight friend in a stereotypical manner and does little to encourage tolerance of people who are different. It rather scares me that they gave kid characters lines in the movie that real-life children will likely repeat in the school environment. Just what we need… children given more ammunition to bully.

The movie ended with an inappropriate homosexual reference. Moviemaking quality was just “meh,” as well, and the jokes honestly weren’t funny. I felt the writing was very poor. I was so disgusted that I went to see the “…Timothy Green” movie for the second time, right afterward, so I could leave the theater with a smile on my face (which I did!).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—KPJ, age 52 (Canada)
Negative—I usually thoroughly read comments before allowing my 11 and 13 year olds to go to movies. Unfortunately, I skimmed “ParaNorman” and thought it was okay. The best things I can say was: 1) it made a good attempt at promoting “accept and be yourself” and 2) promoted the value of friendship. For entertainment value: it wasn’t bad, but it definitely wasn’t good. I was surprised at some of the language—although I don’t know why… these days. But the very end took the cake—even my children said throwing the “gay” scene in our faces was totally inappropriate and totally unnecessary. It was obviously just a way to jam in a statement while being too late for viewers to walk out on the movie. Once again (unfortunately), we had the opportunity to discuss how our society is being “desensitized” concerning moral issues. Sad.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Christian Family, age 50 (USA)
Negative—One of the most offensive parts of the movie, which was not discussed or pointed out in the review by the site’s contributor, was a scene in which homosexuality was introduced to the child viewership of this movie. The “cool” jock in the movie turns out to be gay and makes a reference to his boyfriend. This is just more of Hollywood trying to normalize homosexuality to our children, and even make it seem like it’s “cool”. As Christians, and followers of Christ, this should be one of the most offensive parts of the movie to us, because homosexuality tears down all fundamental parts of the Bible’s teachings on family, sexuality, and men’s/women’s roles.

If we accept homosexuality, it is a complete and utter rejection of God’s commandments for us, in almost all areas of our life. Beside the filthiness of the homosexual reference, in this supposedly kids” movie, is its constant occultic/satanic thematic material. There are all sorts of “spiritual” aspects to the movie that are clearly pagan, as they have no basis in the Bible or the Christian afterlife.

Do not bring your kids to see this! I was wrong for having sat through the whole thing and should have gotten up and left with my children, the moment I started feeling like what my children were being exposed to was nothing God would choose.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Mishan Klotz, age 26 (USA)
Comments from young people
Neutral—I was disappointed in this movie; I went to go see it expecting it to be more along the lines of “Coraline,” but it wasn’t. Instead of the dark humor I was expecting, I got not needed (and not funny) innuendos. Norman was the only character I liked, and his friend was okay, as well, but it just wasn’t as good as the other movies this producer has made. And, of course, they have to shove the gay rights in your face, with the older brother having a boyfriend. I don’t discriminate, and I don’t care what gay people do, just as long as they don’t keep trying to shove it in every heterosexual’s face, and when it’s in a movie like this, that is EXACTLY what they are doing, and it angers me to no end, be what ever you want, but stop calling me a homophobe just because I don’t believe in being gay! Overall, this movie wasn’t all that great.
My Ratings: Moral rating: none / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Sam, age 17 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
Negative—Pray for the people who watch his movie, so that they may have eternal life through Christ. I will stay FAR away from this movie. That is all.
My Ratings: Moral rating: / Moviemaking quality:
—Peter, age 22 (USA)
Negative—I saw the preview for this in the theater and found it extremely disturbing that this movie was meant for children. The kid apparently can speak to the dead, and, in the movie, this is referred to as a “gift”. This is not a gift, and the Bible forbids this (speaking to the dead). This is apparently a story of an underdog kid stopping the destruction of a town because of an already dead witch starting a zombie attack. The quality of the animation was also very poor and any attempted humor fell flat. I cannot believe that people may think it is okay to expose younger children to this hideousness. It is disgusting. Since previews typically show the best, most exciting, and most humorous parts in the movie, I have no interest in watching that movie and wasting 2+ hours of my life. I do not recommend you show this to your children, because I could tell you all this from a preview!!!
—Princess Leia, age 13 (USA)

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