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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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First Martyrs of the Church of Rome: There were Christians in Rome within a dozen or so years after the death of Jesus, though they were not the converts of the “Apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 15:20). Paul had not yet visited them at the time he wrote his great letter in 57-58 A.D.. 
<p>There was a large Jewish population in Rome. Probably as a result of controversy between Jews and Jewish Christians, the Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome in 49-50 A.D. Suetonius the historian says that the expulsion was due to disturbances in the city “caused by the certain Chrestus” [Christ]. Perhaps many came back after Claudius’s death in 54 A.D. Paul’s letter was addressed to a Church with members from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. </p><p>In July of 64 A.D., more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire. Rumor blamed the tragedy on Nero, who wanted to enlarge his palace. He shifted the blame by accusing the Christians. According to the historian Tacitus, many Christians were put to death because of their “hatred of the human race.” Peter and Paul were probably among the victims. </p><p>Threatened by an army revolt and condemned to death by the senate, Nero committed suicide in 68 A.D. at the age of 31.</p> American Catholic Blog While the future may be uncertain to us, we can rest comfortably in the loving control and sovereignty of our Heavenly Father. We can trust his plan, and we can rely upon his fatherly design and control.

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