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Movie Review: ParaNorman

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Author/Source: Nancy Keith

Topic: Movie Review, Reviews

A review of ParaNorman, including description of the movie, areas of concern, teachable themes, discussion questions, and scriptures to use.

Movie Review: <em>ParaNorman</em>

Overview

Norman Babcock is a sweet middle school kid. He is a tad different and his family does not appreciate or understand him. As he walks to school he greets those he encounters with friendly banter. When he gets to school, things are not so friendly. Because Norman is different from everyone else, he is the object of bullies. They write on his locker, make mean remarks and even physically abuse him. Norman meets another boy being bullied at school and in him he finds a friend, something he has never had before. In the end Norman uses his gifts, and mainly his kindness, to save his whole town. Everyone learns a great lesson about tolerance and acceptance and the need to put an end to bullying. The bullies love him. His family appreciates him. The end.

On the surface, ParaNorman is a great heartwarming tale about bullying and overcoming bullying which is a huge problem in our society. Statistics in the U.S. tell us that there are about 2.7 million students being bullied each year by about 2.1 students taking on the roll of the bully. It is estimated that 1 in 7 children in grades K-12 are either being bullies or are bullies themselves. It is very common that those being bullied turn into bullies themselves as they try to get some kind of retribution for what has been done for them. ParaNorman does an extremely good job of communicating this, showing a good resolution.

Concerns  

The problem with ParaNorman may be insurmountable for Christians. You see, the folks that Norman Babcock speaks to on his way to school are all dead. At home he spends time with his dead grandmother. His bedroom is dedicated to ghouls from the wallpaper, to the posters, his slippers, his alarm clock, his toys, his games, his toothbrush…even his backpack has skulls on it and he carries a couple of toy zombies inside. Because Norman is constantly talking to ghosts that no one else can see, he becomes the object of almost everyone’s ridicule. I don’t think that there is really any spiritual connotation or weight given to the zombies in ParaNorman they are nevertheless there and that presents a problem. The movie also deals with a witches curse.

This is definitely not a movie for small children. There are some frightening parts with a person dying, dead people coming back to life, fighting, body parts fall off of dead people, etc. God’s name is misused several times. Norman says “F-Bomb” but not the word related to it. We find out in the end that his friend’s brother is gay. When we finally meet the “witch” Agatha towards the end of the movie she is very violent and dangerous. There are crude humor, bathroom humor and offbeat jokes throughout.

Teachable Themes and Biblical References

I write this review with this disclaimer. ParaNorman teaches a great lesson about bullying, but I personally believe that because of the ghosts, ghouls, zombies, witch and other content, it should not be used in Children’s Ministry. This is a well-advertised film and I am sure that many of our children will see it. I would really be concerned about using it as part of a lesson, mainly because that looks like “the church” is endorsing the whole film that is really not very good for children. I revert to the rule that what I may excuse in moderation, others may abuse in excess. A child may see this movie at church and because of that watch it at home, and seeing that their church leaders use it as an example, may think that this movie is okay to watch in its entirety. I personally would not take children to this movie.

  • Biblical Examples of Bullies
    • David and Goliath 1 Samuel 17
    • Joseph and his brothers Genesis 37
  • An Example of Standing Up for a Friend
    • The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37
  • Jesus Understands the Problem
    • Jesus was betrayed by a friend John 18
  • How does God want us to act?
    • “Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the LORD requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
      “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
      “No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

Discussion Questions

  1. Have you ever been bullied? What did you do?
  2. Have you ever bullied someone? How did that make you feel?
  3. In the movie Neil says, “You can’t stop bullying, it is part of human nature.” Do you believe that we can stop bullying?

Conclusion

This movie has a great teachable theme that our world needs to hear, I just wish it had been packaged differently.


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