"ParaNorman" Movie Review
Focus Features and LAIKA, the companies behind the Academy Award-nominated animated film “Coraline,” return with another stop-motion flick called “ParaNorman.” It’s an animated wonder that perfectly blends comedy and thriller with just enough dash of sweetness.
Meet Norman Babcock (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee of “Let Me In” and “The Road), an 11-year-old outsider who sees dead people. He is gifted with the ability to see and speak with the dead such as his beloved grandmother (Elaine Stritch). But in the eyes of the living, he is cursed.
It’s hard for Norman to fit in. At home, his father (Jeff Garlin) is not supportive, his mother (Leslie Mann) is clueless, and his older sister, Courtney (Anna Kendrick), is utterly superficial. At middle school, Norman is constantly taunted by Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the school bully.
Norman’s one and only friend is the impressionable Neil (the funny Tucker Albrizzi). One day, Norman is unexpectedly confronted by his odd uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman) who warns him that a centuries-old witch’s curse is about to come true. Only Norman will be able to stop it.
From an original script by Chris Butler, “ParaNorman” is closer to the spirit of Peter Jackson’s “The Frighteners.” That 1996 film also mixed comedy and thriller to great results. In “ParaNorman,” even the zombies are source for laughs. But first, they have to scare you.
Set in Blithe Hollow, a town famous for witches’ history much like Salem, Massachusetts, “ParaNorman” is painstakingly detailed and has rich narrative texture. Co-directed by Butler and Sam Fell (“The Tale of Despereaux,” “Flushed Away”), the dynamic duo crafted a good, old-fashioned creature feature.
Not only do they have to tell a compelling story, the animators must painstakingly work on the film’s stop-motion art form. Single frame by single frame, the animators move each character to tell the story. It is truly movie magic crafted by hand and assisted appropriately with 3D technology.
“ParaNorman” also has an 80s vibe that features kids who really do not like each other but are forced to bond for a higher cause. Fell describes the film as “John Carpenter meets John Hughes” where outcasts form a group to deal with an undead curse like “The Fog.”
The voice cast is more than game to bring the story to life. Smit-McPhee, who was excellent in “The Road,” fully embodies the role of Norman. I also enjoyed Kendrick in the mean, old sister role. Even Casey Affleck shows up as Neil’s muscle-bound older brother.
“ParaNorman” also has a strong anti-bullying message that reverberates throughout the course of the movie. The film’s protagonist and antagonist are both bullied but each take a different course of action. But don’t get me wrong, the movie is not preachy. On the contrary, it’s a fun haunted house ride that will delight older kids.
Indeed, many children will identify with Norman. He’s an outcast with special powers who becomes a hero because of his courage and compassion. “ParaNorman” succeeds in being sweet, creepy, funny, and heartfelt – the kind of movie that Tim Burton would have loved to do. “ParaNorman” is definitely one of the best animated films this year.
“ParaNorman” gets 3 ½ kisses
Country: United States
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