ParaNorman Movie Poster Image


Cool-but-creepy monster flick is too scary for little kids.
Popular with kids
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

ParaNorman's themes include tolerance, understanding, unconditional friendship, bravery, and family support. Norman evolves from a lonely misfit who's bullied at school to a town hero by accepting not only his own selfless mission but acknowledging his need for help -- and helping others. Parents will also learn the importance of giving their children the benefit of the doubt and really listening to them instead of dismissing their ideas as just wacky or strange.

Positive role models

Norman doesn't have the best relationship with his parents, especially his father, who finds Norman's penchant for talking to the dead a sign of mental illness or adolescent angst. Neil and his brother, Mitch, are good friends to Norman; they get involved even when they don't have to and offer to help despite Norman's protests. Courtney starts off as a mean big sister but eventually cheers for and supports Norman on his mission. Norman himself is lonely and hesitant to ask for help at first but realizes he doesn't have to do everything by himself. Even the zombies are more sympathetic than they first appear to be.


The movie has an overwhelmingly scary, dark, moody, tone that's set by Norman's interest in monster movies (the movie opens with an animated monster-movie scene that includes a person in peril being chased) and continued by his ability to talk to ghosts (including his grandma, which could be upsetting for some kids) and encounters with frightful-looking zombies. Many frightening scenes will scare younger viewers used to more benign animated movies. Some of the ghosts that Norman can speak to are shown with fatal injuries and/or obvious reasons for their deaths. A character dies on screen. Many scenes feature either a corpse (Norman has to "wrestle" with one in one gross sequence) or falling-apart zombies. The kids think they're going to be ripped apart by the monsters, who chase them in a long sequence that includes tense moments and some startling "jump" scenes. The witch's ghost is very loud and destructive and nearly kills Norman and his family; it also causes a very ominous/scary cloud and sets off hostile sparks and blasts of electric energy. The townsfolk become a bloodthirsty mob ready to use their weapons (including guns) on the witch, zombies, or anyone who appears to be aligned with them. Norman's great-uncle seems creepy and strange (and his house is even more so); his parents argue; a car crashes and rolls.


Courtney aggressively flirts with Mitch, whom she first bumps into while he's shirtless and wearing only a towel. From that moment on, she makes comments about how "hot" he is and tries to get him to reciprocate her come-ons. She wears a midriff-baring exercise suit that she zips down to show off her cleavage; she's also very curvy (as are other female characters). A butt-grabbing is implied; Norman mentions watching "sex and violence" on TV early in the movie.


Insults like "freak," "stupid," "crazy," "loser," "ghost boy," "freakshow," "fatty," and more are used fairly frequently against Norman and his friend. Norman says "the F-word" (referring to a swear word, but not actually saying it). A (dead) grandmother calls her son "jackass." Courtney makes very authentic sounding "mean girl" comments like: "I really like her a lot, but she's a complete loser." Also "darn it," "damnation," "sucks," "boobs," "OMG," "Jesus" (as part of an exclamation), "weiner," and "hell."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Norman's great-uncle takes unexplained pills.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that ParaNorman is, above all else, a monster movie, and it will scare little kids. It's animated (stop-motion), but it's full of ghosts, corpses, zombies, and witches and is aimed toward older kids and teens. There are chases, "jump" scenes, characters in peril, frightful zombies with body parts flapping and falling off, creepy houses with looming shadows (and, in the 3-D version, a swarm of bugs bursting out of a teddy bear straight at you), an angry mob with weapons, and much more. The language (lots of insults directed at Norman) and teen hormones (overt flirting and discussion of how "hot" a couple of teen characters are, as well as flashes of cleavage and a broad shirtless chest) are also more mature than in most animated movies for the younger set. There are also hurtful conflicts between parents and kids, some bullying takes place, and a character is revealed to be gay in a low-key way. While it has themes about tolerance and teamwork and could be a great pick for brave older tweens and middle-schoolers, this cool frightfest is very likely to be too much for younger moviegoers to handle.

What's the story?

Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) isn't your ordinary middle-school misfit. He lives in the small New England town of Blithe Hollow, which is famous for a centuries-old witch hunt, and he can see and speak to the ghosts who reside there. Norman's great-uncle explains to him that, on the upcoming anniversary of the witch's execution, Norman must read from a special book to end her curse on the town. Before he can succeed, Norman -- who's friendless except for a pudgy classmate named Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) -- must band together with a motley crew including his popular older sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick), Neil's older brother, Mitch (Casey Affleck), and the school bully (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to take on the witch and a group of more-than-they-seem zombies.

Is it any good?


Written and directed by Chris Butler, who worked on both Coraline and Corpse Bride, PARANORMAN has the same lush, stylized stop-action animation as those similarly moody films. And, like Coraline, Norman is an outcast with a complicated relationship with his parents. While the supporting characters here aren't nearly as vivid as Coraline's eccentric neighbors (it was, after all, a Neil Gaiman-based adaptation), Norman is an earnest underdog who's easy to cheerlead for -- even if you weren't a middle-school loner yourself.

There's a sophistication to Laika's 3-D stop-action films, and they're just edgy enough to engage even jaded teens who fancy themselves too old for animation. This is not a Disney princess musical; it's got an authenticity to its teenspeak (especially Courtney's hormone-fueled attempts to attract dim-bulb Mitch) and a deep understanding of the perils of early adolescence, when being different feels like it's the worst curse but can really be a blessing in disguise.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how everyone can feel lonely and ignored at times, just like Norman. How does Norman change, and how does Neil teach him about the importance of friendship?

  • What audience do you think ParaNorman is intended for? Is it too scary for younger kids? What aspects of the movie make it more mature than the average animated flick?

  • How does Norman deal with bullying at school? Discuss the many ways kids can get bullied these days and what your children should do if they're experiencing it.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 17, 2012
DVD/Streaming release date:November 27, 2012
Cast:Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Directors:Chris Butler, Sam Fell
Studio:Focus Features
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language

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Parent of a 6 and 8 year old Written byParatrooperWife August 17, 2012

Won't be purchasing this one, even though my 7 and 9 year old liked it.

Scariness was not my concern one bit in this movie, even though there were jumpy parts. I took our 9 and 7 year old and in the end I left the movie theater just shaking my head. Kids and grownups will enjoy the movie, but there were a lot of things that I felt were inappropriate for the younger crowd. Luckily, most went over their heads, but my mother and I were shocked. There was one part when a guy "ppsst" from behind a statue to call a kid over and the other kid said, "Hey, that guy just pissed (ppsst) at you!" A sister saying her brother sucks. Lots of bullying in the beginning. All the kids holding hands to make a stand and a boy putting his hand on the girl's butt instead (you don't see it, but you know by how she reacts and what she says). At the end, the boy that the sister has been pining over (blatantly looking him over, teenage flirting, etc) mentions his boyfriend. Now, I have NO PROBLEMS whatsoever with homosexuality and have mentioned it briefly with our kids. I just wish they could have left out jokes like that in a movie geared towards younger kids. I always talk with my kids about the movies we see and discuss anything that would be an issue. This movie just seems to have WAY too many things to have to talk about in a short period of time. My hand was on my forehead or mouth dropped open in shock a lot. I just never expected all the teenage/adult humor in it. For parents that are not wanting to expose their kids to things like this, stay away from this movie. On a positive note, the overall message of the story is good and the effects are really amazing. We saw it in 2D.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Parent of a 5, 6, and 8 year old Written bymama2mbg December 6, 2012

narrow minded parents create narrow minded bullies

I loved this movie as did my children. We watched it as a family and laughed throughout the entire thing. I rated it on "pause" because I feel you should know your child for any movie you would see. Throughout the movie I heard things like "Mama, she said a bad word!", followed by giggling. Another comment was "I think bullies are mean...maybe they feel sad about something." The zombies did not scare them because they like zombies (part of why we chose a zombie movie to begin with) My favorite comment was from my youngest daughter "He's gonna have a gay family just like us Mama!" What is sad to me is the fact that something that made my daughters feel good about our family, is making so many other people upset. Homosexuality is not about sex, it is about love. The comment about a boyfriend liking a certain type of movie is not inappropriate. A parent explaining gay sex to their child is inappropriate. My daughters know no more about my sex life than any child knows about their straight parents sex life. We don't discuss sex with our children because they are too young. We do however teach them that love comes in many forms and they are all ok. I wish parents that are afraid of homosexuality or view it as something that needs major explanation, would stop and think about the children in gay families. Bullying exists because of fear and ignorance. My children will most likely face bullying in their life because they have two moms...that is not the fault of any child, it is a direct result of careless and ignorant parenting. If the mention of boyfriend made you fear for your child, please know that it will be your child that is bullying mine.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 16 years old Written byimminentCataclysm October 7, 2012


I am so deeply disappointed in all of the parent reviews I have seen for this movie, all concerning the same issue, concerning the simple comment of "I'll go if I can bring my boyfriend." , which was said by another male character. I myself have not even seen this movie, but I saw these comments and felt so obligated to write a message to you all that I created this account and everything. Ok, I'm seeing comments such as "I don't want to hear about who's having SEX with who!" .Excuse me? All the person said was that he wanted his boyfriend to go to the movie. That's it. You are assuming that he has sexual intercourse with this person just because he is gay. And if you say that is not why, then you are quite blind and are lying to yourself. If it had been a girl who said it, you would have thought nothing of it. Or if he had said "If my girlfriend can go." . If he had said that, you would have thought nothing of it except it being cute and sweet. But because he has relations with another male character, your ignorant mind automatically assumes that they have sex. That is sad. It sickens me to see how close-minded you all are. Yes, I know, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But to jump to a conclusion such as that, and act so disgusted by it? You all are the ones who need to do the growing up. You can't accept something different. Face it, your children are going to see gay couples together in real life, whether you like it or not. My question to you is: What will you do if your child tells you that they are in love with a person of the same sex? Are you going to treat them like you are treating this character? Are you going to automatically assume that they are having a ton of "gay-sex"? Will you disown them because of it? Through what I have seen of you all, the answer is yes. And that is heartbreaking. You have no objections to the sexual innuendos in other movies set towards a young audience, because those ones involve a heterosexual couple. It is not your children who need to be mature to see this, it is you. I am proud of the writers of this movie. They knew there were going to be closed-minded ignorant anti-gay-marriage-fanatics such as yourselves seeing this movie, and they still put that in there. I applaud you, ParaNorman writers, you did something you knew would bring up such needless controversial response. You also, from my knowledge of the film ,showed how even "outcasts" are something great, and can find good friends.
What other families should know
Great messages