The new 3D stop-motion comedy thriller from animation company LAIKA, retiming the company with Focus Features after the groundbreaking Academy Award-nominated ‘Coraline’. ‘ParaNorman’ is, following ‘Coraline’, the company’s second stop-motion animated feature to be made in 3D. In ‘ParaNorman’, a small town comes under siege by zombies. Who can it call? Only misunderstood local boy Norman voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is able to speak with the dead. In addition to zombies, he’ll have to take on ghosts, witches and, worst of all, grown-ups, to save his town from a centuries-old curse. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.
Film informationGenre: Comedy, Live Action/CG-Animated, Thriller
If ParaNorman feels incredibly familiar to you when you sit down to watch it, then either you have seen Coraline (also made by LAIKA studios), or you spend way too much time thinking about zombies. ParaNorman is a stop-motion animation 3D show that is surprisingly morbid and depressed. The story is a strange take on a familiar premise. The whole “picked on and bullied kid makes good” has been done before, though I am pretty sure it has not been done with zombies and witches. If the lesson is intended for children, they might have forgotten that zombies, the undead and the like are a bit advanced for some. Whatever the case, ParaNorman is oddly entertaining but in a sideshow type of way.
The movie centers on Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) and the character is rather cliché. Norman is constantly picked on and not the most popular kid around, and he spends most of his time with ghosts that he sees and converses with. The rest of his time is spent trying to avoid people, both in the town and within his own family.
Eventually Norman is thrust into the spotlight by Mr. Prenderghast (voiced masterfully by John Goodman) when he requires Norman to save the town from a horrible witch’s curse. Suddenly the little boy everyone couldn’t stand is the town’s only hope.
There are plenty of things to like about ParaNorman as well. The stop-motion technology is a huge hit with many. It is not my personal cup of tea, but most will enjoy the odd little characters that ParaNorman creates. It is certainly incredible what they can do these days with that technology.
Another fine part of the movie is the 3D technology. This is one of the few flicks I have seen where 3D actually improves the experience. Perhaps it is the nature of the characters, or perhaps it is simply the stop-motion. Either way, it is fascinating to look at.
Jon Brion puts a wonderful score together to make the movie sound incredible. The sounds are certainly one of the best parts of the movie.
Finally, the actors and actresses did a wonderful job of voicing the characters. I could sit and listen to John Goodman all day long, and everyone did a wonderful job here. To me, the real issues were with the tone of the movie and the script.
In a movie that is for kids, I like to see brilliant colors that pop and less doom and gloom. I get that the movie is about zombies and ghosts, but kids are very suggestive. I can totally see my ten year old being freaked out a bit by some of the scenes and the constant atmosphere. (Granted she is a bit on the easily spooked side) Either way, I can’t see younger kids not being scared by this movie. In a movie for kids, that is not good.
The story also comes across as a bit tired. I think I would have liked it more if it had stretched its legs a little bit. The movie almost seemed to get on a high horse about morality at some points rather than letting the story deliver the message. It tried too hard from a script point of view. We don’t need speeches to get the moral compass of the movie, so why put that in there?
Despite the movie’s faults, it is a pretty solid and enjoyable movie overall. Even if you don’t care for the actual story, you will be amazed at the craftsmanship and the sound. These two areas are a total home run on every level. ParaNorman will be a huge hit at the box office in all likelihood, and seeing it in 3D is even more fun. It is certainly worth a look, though I would not have extremely high expectations for a unique story.