“ParaNorman” is a stop motion animated movie about a young boy who can see, and speak to, the dead. The unpredictable situations that occur due to his abilities cause an enormous amount of social stigmatism for him. No one in his life believes him, and everyone feels that he’s odd.
Things change on the anniversary of the town’s famous Puritan era witch trial, when Norman is the only one equipped to face the challenges of the supernatural events that arise. Can he save the day?
It’s a charming and unique animated movie. Colorfully creepy for kids and fun for all ages, “ParaNorman” is a strong contender for my favorite animated film this year.
Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a young boy with… issues. He can see ghosts. They talk to him frequently – to the extent that he has difficulty hiding his abilities from others. Of course, the people in his life don’t believe him. They just think he’s weird. His parents argue with him, his sister ignores him, he’s bullied at school, and his friends… well, he has no friends. Just as he makes one in fellow outcast Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), his crazy, estranged Uncle (John Goodman) shows up and informs Norman that he needs to protect the town. His Uncle, who can also speak to ghosts, is in poor health and knows his days are numbered. He needs to pass on his responsibilities to Norman.
Hundreds of years ago, the townspeople of Norman’s town executed a witch. Prior to her death, the witch placed curse on the town. She swore that the dead would rise from their graves as her revenge. If an annual ritual isn’t performed on her grave, she will return and the living dead will overrun the town. As a medium, Norman is the only one in town who can communicate with her, so the burden falls on him. Unfortunately, the school bully (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) chooses the wrong moment to harass Norman, and he’s unable to complete the ritual.
When all supernatural Hell breaks loose, Norman is the only one who can prevent catastrophe.
“ParaNorman” doesn’t feel like your typical kid’s movie. Aside from the stop motion animation (which is great), the characters and creatures have a distinct design look to them. They’re all misshapen and off, like caricatures. The world they live in is distinctive as well. It’s colorful and bright, but has a mild, macabre feel to it. It makes for a charming atmosphere… kept a smile on my face the entire movie. The subject matter, while not overly gross or scary necessarily, still has touches of both. The tone definitely stands out refreshingly amongst today’s typical kiddie fare. Once things get going, there’s plenty of silly, spooky action that will amuse both kids and grown ups alike. Eventually, the movie reaches a very, very well done ending. One that’s gorgeous to look at, sweet, and satisfies the “life lessons” requisite for children’s movies.
The voice cast does a fine job. Kodi Smit-McPhee is fine as young Norman and Tucker Albrizzi is very funny as his chubby friend Neil. Anna Kendrick plays Norman’s sister as a self absorbed gossip queen, while Casey Affleck is the muscle headed older brother to Neil, and the object of her affections. I wouldn’t have thought of casting Christopher Mintz-Plasse as a bully, but his voice is perfect for the role. Leslie Mann and Jeff Garlin play Norman’s frustrated parents. They all work well with the splendid stop motion and the terrific script to create a top-notch animated experience.
I was won over by this movie. It felt unique and creative, and extremely well done. It’s funny, and has some really good lessons organically woven into the narrative. Nothing preachy or heavy handed, they simply found a great way to tell a story about accepting people for who they are.