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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

ParaNorman

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Animated characters are seen in the movie "ParaNorman."
Though the horror-themed animated adventure "ParaNorman" (Focus) is obviously directed at children, it includes a smattering of sexual humor and, more significantly, a concluding plot twist that ought to put parents of faith on their guard. That's all the more unfortunate since co-directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler's frequently witty stop-motion celebration of the macabre has a basic message to convey that's valuable for adults and kids alike.

The story focuses on Norman Babcock (voice of Kodi Smit-McPhee), an 11-year-old boy whose ability to communicate with ghosts—principally his beloved Grandma (voice of Elaine Stritch) but also deceased strangers whom he passes in the street—has caused him to be shunned and bullied by his unbelieving peers.

Things only get more complicated for Norman when his eccentric great-uncle Mr. Prenderghast (voice of John Goodman) calls on him to save their Salem-like hometown from the apocalyptic fulfillment of an 18th-century witch's (voice of Jodelle Ferland) curse.

Soon Norman is battling the enraged spirit of the falsely accused sorceress, as well as the zombielike specters of the puritan judges who condemned her, through all manner of spooky environments.

He's helped along the way, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, by his tubby best friend and fellow outcast Neil (voice of Tucker Albrizzi), his cheerleader sister Courtney (voice of Anna Kendrick), school quarterback (and Neil's older brother) Mitch (voice of Casey Affleck), and even by reformed bully Alvin (voice of Christopher Mintz-Plasse) whom the sight of the sprites has scared straight.

What Norman's quest principally teaches us is that evil acts are often motivated by fear and that the vengeful desire to retaliate in kind only makes things worse. Needless to say, that's an outlook that squares completely with Judeo-Christian values.

Butler's screenplay, however, which dabbles in sexual humor throughout, concludes with the ironic revelation that a seemingly he-man male character has a boyfriend. However brief and however humorously intended, the scene nonetheless clearly sends a signal that such a relationship ought to be as nonchalantly accepted as it is matter-of-factly announced. As such, it is grievously out of place in a film directed at children.

The film contains acceptance of homosexual acts, some sexual and scatological jokes and potentially frightening scenes of peril. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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