“ParaNorman” is a near perfect blend of horror and stop-motion animation and despite a few flaws the film is one that the whole family can enjoy. The film feels like a well thought out love letter to the horror genre.
The story centers on Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a normal boy with a very abnormal gift of speaking with the dead. Due to his gift Norman is rejected by his family and his peers, so Norman spends more time with the dead than the living. After receiving a warning from his recently deceased uncle (John Goodman), Norman must race against time to stop an age old curse before his town is destroyed. Now, the one person everyone ignored is their only hope for survival.
“ParaNorman” was probably in my top five most anticipated films of this year. I’m a huge fan of stop-motion animation and when done correctly the result is nothing less than breathtaking. The animation in “ParaNorman” is brilliant and seamless. Every movement from these characters is so smooth that it’s hard to believe these characters as lifeless puppets. I definitely have to give a lot of credit to these filmmakers for putting the time and effort into this movie.
Of course, these little characters wouldn’t be anything without the talented voices behind them. Kodi Smit-McPhee is no stranger to horror movies and his portrayal for Norman is fantastic. He definitely brings a deep sadness and purity to Norman. The rest of the cast has a lot of fun with their characters. Christopher Mintz-Plasse feels right at home as the bully Alvin and easily steals a lot of the spotlight. John Goodman is sadly underused in this film as Norman’s Uncle Prenderghast, but he definitely makes good use of the time he’s given.
The movie starts off strong enough with the eloquent set-up of the Norman character; I felt so bad for this misunderstood kid. Being a huge horror fan myself I absolutely loved the homage to past horror movies. I especially grinned at the pokes at “Halloween” and the soundtrack complemented the movie. While so much of the movie is great, there are some weak points in the script. The zombies chasing the kids around grew tiresome and I kept waiting for the witch in the sky to do something, but the face in the sky never really serves a purpose. I also felt that the underlying theme of bullying stayed a little too close to the surface for my taste but despite that, the notion of bravery really stuck with me. Norman learned that bravery isn’t about the absence of fear, but embracing the fear and moving on in spite of it.
Overall, “Paranorman” is a fun, spooky and beautiful tale that spans multiple generations. I can’t wait to add this little gem to my personal collection.
– Joe D.