****1/2 (out of 5)
August 17, 2012
Kodi Smit-McPhee as NORMAN BABCOCK
Tucker Albrizzi as NEIL
Anna Kendrick as COURTNEY
Casey Affleck as MITCH
Christopher Mintz-Plasse as ALVIN
Leslie Mann as SANDRA BOBCOCK
Jeff Garlin as PERRY BABCOCK
Directed by: Chris Butler and Sam Fell
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
It will be no surprise to anyone who knows me, has read my reviews and is aware of my love of animation that I simply adored “ParaNorman.” I suppose I was pre-disposed to love this film, for no other reasons than the sum of its parts: animation, and stop-motion no less; horror movie references, innovative story and a general Halloween feel.
“ParaNorman” is a new 3D stop-motion animated film from Laika Studios, which brought us “Coraline” several years ago. (For the record, “Coraline was my second favorite movies of 2009, after the animated film “Up.”) Like “Coraline,” it’s not your traditional children’s movie, and it dips more than just its toes in the scary film genre.
The story follows a young boy named Norman who can talk to the ghosts of the dead. He’s misunderstood by his family and relentlessly teased at school. However, when a centuries-old witch’s curse threatens to destroy the town, Norman has to team up with his snotty sister and the school bully to fix things.
Beyond the brilliant animation and sharp stereoscopic 3D cinematography, the script is smartly written, offering plenty of loving jabs to the horror genre with winks and nods to its fans. From Norman’s love of late-night horror movies (that he watches with the ghost of his dead grandmother) to in-jokes about films like “Halloween” and other B-movie classics, “ParaNorman” seems like it was made specifically for someone like me.
However, don’t let all the scary movie elements fool you. “ParaNorman” isn’t scary in the least. And as long as the simply presence of scary movie elements (like ghosts and witches) doesn’t freak you out, it’s a completely safe movie for children. Ultimately, if a kid can watch “Scooby-Doo!” and not be afraid, they should be fine with “ParaNorman.”
“ParaNorman” is like the nicest horror movie fan you’ve ever met, with his body covered in tattoos and piercings all over his face. Don’t let first impressions fool you. There’s a sweetness inside that is tender and genuine, giving any Disney or Pixar film a run for its money. “ParaNorman” offers a sweet story with a good message. It’s heart’s in the right place, even if that place happens to be outside of its ribcage.
The key to “ParaNorman” is that at its heart, it’s just a simple tale about a boy who has a special gift. Sure, it has a greater story about a witch’s curse, but even then this angle points in the same direction.
There’s a refreshing amount of levity in the film without being cheesy or cheap. Laughs come from simple gags in the film, as well as really clever stings at horror movie tropes. In many ways, “ParaNorman” feels ideal for an October run with the nights getting longer and the days getting cooler. Unfortunately, it seems that Focus Features wanted to get out of the way of Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie,” and I fear that might hurt the box office of this adorable film.