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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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Oliver Plunkett: The name of today's saint is especially familiar to the Irish and the English—and with good reason. The English martyred Oliver Plunkett for defending the faith in his native Ireland during a period of severe persecution. 
<p>Born in County Meath in 1629, he studied for the priesthood in Rome and was ordained there in 1654. After some years of teaching and service to the poor of Rome he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in Ireland. Four years later, in 1673, a new wave of anti-Catholic persecution began, forcing Archbishop Plunkett to do his pastoral work in secrecy and disguise and to live in hiding. Meanwhile, many of his priests were sent into exile; schools were closed; Church services had to be held in secret and convents and seminaries were suppressed. As archbishop, he was viewed as ultimately responsible for any rebellion or political activity among his parishioners. 
</p><p>Archbishop Plunkett was arrested and imprisoned in Dublin Castle in 1679, but his trial was moved to London. After deliberating for 15 minutes, a jury found him guilty of fomenting revolt. He was hanged, drawn and quartered in July 1681. 
</p><p>Pope Paul VI canonized Oliver Plunkett in 1975.</p> American Catholic Blog Evil will always exist, and it will enter our lives unexpectedly and without consent. But how deeply that darkness will touch us is up to us; our will is our own. The dark affects our bodies but not necessarily our souls. Our lives can be taken. But they can also be given.

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