Runtime: 1 HR, 33 MIN
Director: Chris Butler, Sam Fell
Writers: Chris Butler
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Jodelle Ferland, and John Goodman
With few exceptions computer animation has dominated animation motion pictures for well over a decade. Every so often however a film comes along that proves that there’s still room for animation that’s not 100% computer generated. ParaNorman is one of those films.
The inhabitants of Blithe Hollow just don’t get Norman; his parents are worried about him, his sister is annoyed by him, and the kids at school pick on him all because he says he sees and talks to ghosts. What the town folk don’t know is that Norman is the only thing that stands between them and the witches’ curse that makes the dead rise from the grave.
ParaNorman is a smart, sweet, and very bizarre film all at the same time. Far too many children’s films pander to their young audience by going after cheap laughs that are mostly fart related. It was refreshing to watch a film intended for a young audience that was still enjoyable and relevant to adults. There are a lot of the jokes that reference horror films that ParaNorman’s target audience probably hasn’t seen but that won’t stop them from finding a lot of other things to laugh at.
A lot of kids will find things to identify with; loneliness, being misunderstood, bullying, making new friends, facing your fears, and accepting others are just a few topics that are touched on without becoming preachy. The morale of the story for adults, to listen to and accept your children for who they are, is handled with less subtlety but it’s still an effective message.
ParaNorman was brought to life by the same studio that produced Coraline back in 2009 and it shares a similar visual style. Simply put ParaNorman looks amazing and there were a few moments where I actually had to remind myself that I was watching stop motion animation and not a live action film. The film’s use of CGI blends seamlessly with the puppetry to create a wonderfully vibrant and eerie world.
One of ParaNorman’s strongest assets is its impressive voice cast. Norman’s voice is provided by Kodi Smit-McPhee who is best known for his performances in The Road and in the chilling Let Me In. He’s damn near perfect as the shy and misunderstand hero who musters up the courage to save his town. Supporting roles are filled by the likes of Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, and John Goodman. Even though they’re all relatively well-known actors and actresses their voices fly under the radar with the exception being John Goodman and Jeff Garlin whose distinctive voices are easily recognized.
For a film about zombies, witches, and ghosts ParaNorman isn’t particularly scary even by kid movie standards. Kids that have enjoyed A Nightmare Before Christmas, Monster House, or Coraline should get a kick out of ParaNorman. With that said it may be a little too intense for children that are more used to Disney/Pixar fair.
ParaNorman is being released in 3D and quite frankly it looks fantastic. The 3D effect lends itself very nicely to stop motion animation, it’s almost like you’re walking around a giant model village. Cheap 3D gimmicks are kept to a minimum and instead the 3D effect is used to create an added sense of depth that again looks stunning.
Very rarely am I blown away by an animated film but ParaNorman did just that. From start to finish it’s a wonderfully creative film with interesting characters, beautiful scenery, and an enlightening message. Life long horror fans will appreciate the many inside jokes and younger viewers may get their first exposure to a genre they could grow to love when they get older. Highly recommended for horror fans young and old.