‘ParaNorman’ review – An undead tale for all ages

Posted: August 18, 2012 in Movies

The folks over at Laika Studios certainly know how to tell a story centering around a kid and their lonely aspirations.  Ever since 2009’s Coraline caught the hearts of everyone with its loveable stop motion animation and genuine heart, Laika have been a studio to keep your eyes on.
ParaNorman is just the film to put Laika over the top and into the conversation for best animated film studio.

Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is your everyday kid; he’s obsessed with zombies, has no friends, and his parents think he’s a little kooky.  Except Norman isn’t your everyday kid at all.   Norman is your everyday kid that can see and speak with dead people.  It’s this fact that Norman gets picked on by the school bully, Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and his parents wonder why he “can’t just be like other kids”.  Even his own teenage sister (Anna Kendrick) thinks Norman is absolutely bonkers.  When Norman runs into his long-lost, homeless uncle – who also has the gift for seeing dead people – Norman is tasked with saving his Massachusetts town from the witch’s curse put on the town 300 years ago.

What transpires is about as close as you’re going to get to the Goonies in animated form.  Norman, with the help of another social outcast – Neil, and the exact people that give Norman the most grief set out on this grand adventure that doesn’t take you really anywhere at all.  This great escape into the paranormal is contained to the town of Blithe Hollow and its outlying graveyards.  Directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell do a fantastic job of having the audience relate to the characters and the film actually takes the time to give the main characters a story and meaning behind their antics.  Norman just wants to be understood, Neil just wants a friend, Alvin just wants the attention.  The stop-motion clay animation is gorgeous and may be the best non-computer animation animated film we’re going to see until some time next year.  It’s an amazing feat that Laika managed to improve on Coraline not only in the animation department but also in the story telling department as well.

While ParaNorman is nowhere near as dark and grimy as Coraline, it certainly has its creepy gross-out moments (take the scene where Norman has to retrieve a book from the hands of a recently deceased man and winds up with the dead man’s tongue on his face).  Like the title of this review says, ParaNorman is fun for the entire family, mixing child and adult humor all the same.  Neil steals much of the humor lines but characters such as Alvin and Mitch (wonderfully voiced by Casey Affleck) make up for any long-standing moments where there isn’t a joke being cracked.

ParaNorman is just the type of animated film we need right now to give us a respite from the overwhelming saturation of CGI-fests we’ve grown accustomed to year after year.

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