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Music Review: Jon Brion – ParaNorman

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While I may have had reservations about reviewing a book, I wasn’t sure I was the best person to review a film score either. But then I remembered the hundreds of film scores and soundtracks that fill up stack after stack of CDs at home and in my car. Maybe I am a good choice to review one after all, right? Film scores are probably what I listen to the most come to think of it.

So now, when it comes to the score for ParaNorman by composer Jon Brion, the big question is whether or not it lives up to what it’s supposed to be. I have always felt that the biggest success of any film score or soundtrack is to enable one to relive the film in their head. Having seen the film three weeks ago, it could make that an even bigger challenge to defeat. Well, it surely delivers on that front.

With Brion’s resume, a stop-motion animated family film (about a misunderstood boy who can see and speak with ghosts) at first glance seems like a bit of a stretch. But it appears that Brion is out to stretch himself any way he can when you compare his more recent film scores with that of his beginnings. Starting out composing for Paul Thomas Anderson in 1996 (for Hard Eight with Michael Penn) and later, Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York), Brion has scored films for Adam McKay in recent years (Step Brothers and The Other Guys) and is about to take on the latest from Judd Apatow (This Is 40).

About scoring an animated film, Brion has stated that he’s “been waiting for the right one for some time now,” and he couldn’t have picked a better one. The film weaves its way through genres ranging from adventure, comedy, and ultimately, horror, giving Brion everything he needs to set the tone for what starts out as a melancholy affair for the film’s protagonist to even pull some heartstrings during the climatic showdown in the finale.

While most children’s fare seems to take advantage of whatever pop songs are currently playing from Justin Beiber and Katy Perry, it’s nice to have a family film take a cue from the likes of Pixar Animation Studios, who rarely use songs, save for the end credits, if at all. Parents could maybe even use this as a springboard to get their kids into classical music—I know it worked for me. And once your kids see the likes of ParaNorman, they may find themselves opening up even more doors in their musical tastes.

Photo courtesy of Focus Features

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About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival and a member of the Utah Film Critics Association.