Norman can see dead people. Well, to be more precise Norman can see ghosts of any once-living thing which is stuck on Earth, unable to pass into the afterlife. Norman can also see that a very angry and vengeful ghost is about to wreak havoc on his hometown. The problem? No one believes him. Review of ParaNorman after the jump.
Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a little bit special – he can see the walking dead. His walk to school and back consists of greeting and avoiding ghouls and ghosts of both the human and the animal kind. The problem is nobody believes Norman – they think he’s a weird kid with his head in the clouds. Through a series of events, Norman comes to learn that an annual ritual must be performed to keep the resentful town ghosts at bay, or they will seek their revenge on the townsfolk. Due to the passing of the last ritual-performer, the job has now become Norman’s problem.
Norman has never heard of the curse, and quite frankly thinks the whole thing a bit of a joke. That’s until he starts seeing things…..the sky begins to turn dark and things take a turn for the ominous. Norman can’t ignore what is unfolding in front of his eyes; and with the help of the unlikely group of: the dorky Neil (voiced by Tucker Albrizzi), school bully Alvin (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse), his sister Courtney (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and Neil’s older chilled-out brother Mitch (Casey Affleck), Norman has to appease the ghosts and save the town from an infinity of darkness.
Writer-Director Chris Butler has worked on Coraline and Corpse Bride, and it’s easy to see the talent behind those spooky creative animated adventures at work here. Along with co-director Sam Fell, Butler has created an engaging story which is equal measures fun and spooky, with a good dash of morals and lessons threaded throughout.
ParaNorman has a good deal of scary moments – marching zombies, a quite frightening witche and a whole lot of tension combine to create a film that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Along with the scares (and there are quite a few), there is a heap of fun and a really beautiful story about not judging people by their appearance. We can’t help but love Norman from the beginning, but what is surprising is how quickly the initially annoying and seeminly one-dimensional supporting characters become enduring. Bravery can be found in the wimpiest looking people, and support against the undead can be found in the most unlikely of allies. The film also carries a very strong anti-bullying message, which although prominent, blends into the story nicely and doesn’t overwhelm the fun.
The animation here is beautiful and whether you see it in 3D or not, you will bound to be impressed at the world created by the skilful stop-motion animators. Stop-motion animation never fails to astound me, and has a way of bringing everything (even the seemingly impossible) vividly to life.
ParaNorman has enough fun, scares and story to entertain the whole family.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Chris Butler & Sam Fell
Writer(s): Chris Butler
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John Goodman
Runtime: 92 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: January 10 2013; New Zealand: January 17 2013; USA: August 17 2012