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Published: 2012-08-17 - 18:55:16
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ParaNorman Review

By Joe Lozito

The Ghost Whimperer

parnorman.jpg

if you're playing the plot-mashup game, take equal parts "The Sixth Sense" and "Night of the Living Dead", liberally season it with the old "Scooby-Doo" cartoons, and you'll come out with "ParaNorman", a gleefully-twisted stop-motion fairytale about a young boy who must save his town from a centuries-old curse.

Young Norman is your classic loner. Being saddled with the nagging ability to see and talk to ghosts, Norman is not exactly popular with his fellow students (he can't seem to erase "Freak" from his locker quickly enough before someone rewrites it). Ostracized in school at every turn, Norman forms an uneasy friendship with Neil, a rotund child for whom obesity is only the tip of the bully-baiting iceberg. Likewise, the townsfolk in the deliciously-named Blithe Hollow eye Norman warily. Even his parents tire of his constant conversations with their late grandmother.

But verbose ghosts are the least of Norman's worries as a 300 year-old witch's curse is about to be unleashed on the town. And guess who's the only one equipped to stop it?

It's no surprise that "ParaNorman" comes from Focus Features and LAIKA, the studios behind "Coraline". "ParaNorman" shares the same dark sense of humor and, frankly, the same respect for the intelligence of its young audience. If only the writing were as deeply rich as that previous effort. As witty as the script is (by first-timer Chris Butler, who co-directed with Sam Fell), there's not quite enough plot to sustain the film's running time. Even for the younger crowd, Norman's quest to stop the curse is pretty straightforward, and the zombies, though hysterical, aren't particularly threatening. The film's finale becomes typically noisy overkill.

"ParaNorman" is at its best when exploring the playfully-realized town and its characters. The vocal cast is led by Kodi Smit-McPhee ("The Road"), who brings real range to Norman. Anna Kendrick, John Goodman and Casey Affleck are also great additions.

The film's pristine stop-motion animation is elevated even further by the fantastic use of 3D.  There is a real tactile quality to the image that's still missing from CG (James Cameron take note). "ParaNorman" may not have the most memorable plot, but the care that went into creating the visuals shows a lot of spirit - literally.

What did you think?

Movie title ParaNorman
Release year 2012
MPAA Rating PG
Our rating
Summary Gleefully twisted fairytale about a small medium with large problems. If only the script were as deeply textured as the beautiful stop-motion animation.
View all articles by Joe Lozito
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