Guest review by Tommy “Slug” Togath, age 14
There’s been a wave of animated monster movies in the past few weeks. Two stop-motion and one CGI movie have been released. Does this signify a trend, or is it just a coincidence? I don’t know, but all three movies are entertaining and explore different aspects of monster stories.
Written by Chris Butler; directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
This movie is from the makers of the wonderful movie Coraline (adapted from a book by Neil Gaiman). ParaNorman is an original story about a boy named Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who can see and talk to ghosts. No one takes him seriously, and as a result his classmates tease him to the point of bullying. When a group of ghosts start terrorizing the town, it’s up to Norman to save the day.
ParaNorman is an entertaining movie, but probably not a movie that will stand the test of time. The stop-motion animation is better than in Coraline, with scenes containing multiple characters moving at the same time. The story, however, is kind of forgettable. The best part of the movie was when Norman had to contend with the body of his teacher who dies. It was one of the funniest and grossest scenes in a movie I’ve seen. I also liked when Norman talked to his dead grandmother.
The overall moral of the story is that everyone is different, and that bullying is bad whether it’s directed towards the living or the dead. It was a bit heavy-handed, but a valuable lesson anyway.
Hotel Transylvania (2012)
Story by Todd Durham and Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman; screenplay by Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel; directed by Genndy Tartakovsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really liked the setup for this movie. Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) builds a hotel in a remote and well protected forest so that his monster friends have a safe place to take their vacations without interference from evil humans. Dracula has a daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), who is about to have her 118th birthday party with all the monsters in attendance. A teenage boy named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) stumbles upon the hotel and Dracula has to disguise the boy to prevent his guests from panicking. Of course, Mavis and Jonathan fall in love, complicating Dracula’s efforts.
Hotel Transylvania is a funny, slapstick CGI movie. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again. Much of the credit goes to director Genndy Tartakovsky who created two of my favorite TV cartoons, Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack. Apparently, the movie was in development for many years with various writers and directors, but it was Tartakovsky who basically rescued it with his action-packed style.
The whole movie was funny, and I enjoyed seeing a lot of different monsters, although most of them didn’t get much screen time. The best part of the movie was at the end when Dracula finally realizes that humans aren’t as evil as he thinks. The message is that it’s ok to be different, and that we all need to accept others who may not look or act the same.
I could easily imagine that Hotel Transylvania could be a continuing TV series. There are a lot of potential stories that could be told with different monsters being highlighted. My understanding is that there is already a movie sequel in production.
Screenplay by John August, based on an original idea by Tim Burton and a screenplay by Leonard Ripps; directed by Tim Burton
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this black-and-white, stop-motion parody of the Frankenstein story. I was actually quite captivated by the movie. A boy named Victor (Charlie Tahan) doesn’t have many friends, except his faithful dog Sparky. After Sparky gets run over by a car, Victor decides to bring him back to life using electricity that he learned about in science class. When Victor’s classmates discover what he has done, they try to steal his idea for the upcoming science fair, creating chaos.
I haven’t seen very many Tim Burton movies. One of the movies he made a long time ago was The Nightmare Before Christmas, using the same kind of stop-motion animation. Some of my friends really liked this movie, but I didn’t like all the singing. Alice in Wonderland was only so-so. Frankenweenie is definitely better than those two movies, and I am now motivated to see some of Burton’s other movies.
I could really relate to Victor. I am kind of a science nerd, so I could appreciate him not having many friends. I also have a dog that I love, and I would be heartbroken if he died in an accident like Sparky. The best part of the movie was Victor’s science teacher (Martin Landau). He was kind of creepy and funny at the same time. I really liked when he said that science itself is neither good nor evil, but could be used for good or evil. Science is just a process of learning the facts about the world and the universe around us. I was disappointed that the science teacher did not have a bigger part in the movie. I also thought Sparky was a cool character. He was smart and cute, and acted like a real dog most of the time.
I didn’t come away from Frankenweenie thinking that there was a strong message, other than don’t experiment on your dead dog without permission. But overall, I liked Frankenweenie the most of these three monster movies. The production values were excellent, the story was funny, and I think that it’s a movie that I will understand more when I am older. There were a lot of references to old movies that I didn’t get.