He sees dead people, which doesn’t exactly make Norman the toast of the town. It does make a charming paranormal, stop-motion kid flick. Although a few of the gags might be a bit adult the stop-motion animation is top notch.
Halloween is the big time for Blithe Hollow, which has massaged its legend of a witches’ curse into a cottage tourist industry. Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is an outcast kid who has conversations with his dead grandmother (Elaine Stritch).
Not just because he misses her, but because he can really converse with the dead. His parents Perry (Jeff Garlin) and Sandra (Leslie Mann) and his big sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick) think that Norman is crazy like his uncle Mr. Prendergast (John Goodman).
Norman makes fast friends of fellow outcast Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) and when his uncle dies Norman has to talk to the dead to keep the witche’s curse from raising the townsfolk that hung her. Things don’t exactly work out that way and the zombies rise led by the gaunt Judge (Bernard Hill) to terrorize the townspeople.
Soon Courtney, Norman, Neil, Neil’s hunky but dimwitted brother Mitch (Casey Affleck), and school bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) have to figure out how to break the curse and put the dead back in their graves, but all is not what it seems.
ParaNorman brings much familiarity to the table. I mean he does speak to dead people and a cursed town isn’t exactly new concepts even if portrayed in nice stop-motion.
It may also come as a surprise that neither Tim Burton nor Henry Selick were involved (although director Chris Butler worked on projects from both), but certainly the filmmakers are spiritual cousins of several of their films.
Norman never really rises to classic status but I found the plot taking turns that surprised me. I can’t go into that final, dark spin since it would constitute a spoiler but I found it a daring, different turn for a kids’ film. Of course, it’s done with a horror movie style that is leaning towards kid friendly (that revelation turn might be a bit much for the smaller ones).
ParaNorman is presented in a 1080p transfer (2.40:1). Special features include a commentary from writer/director Chris Butler and co-director Sam Fell, the 41 minute, nine-part making of “Peering through the Veil,” 15 minutes of additional featurettes, 9 minutes of preliminary animatic sequences, and U-Control brings much of the special features into picture-in-picture format. You also get a DVD and a digital copy.
ParaNorman is a frenzied supernatural activity (ParaNorman Activity?) rendered in grand stop-motion style. The film may not exactly rise to classic status (Coraline done in a similar style comes closer) but it is a fun romp for the horror loving crowd. Some gags and situations may be best suited for the older kids but there is a graveyard full of fun to be found in Blithe Hollow.
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