ParaNorman Review (Kirk Haviland)

ParaNorman (2012)

Starring the voices of Cody Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin and John Goodman

Written by Chris Butler

Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell

From the same studio that brought us Henry Selick’s Coraline we get a new stop-motion animated film also dealing with the slightly macabre, ParaNorman. From directors Chris Butler, storyboard artist on Coraline, and Sam Fell, director of Tale of Despereaux and Flushed Away, comes the story of a boy with the gift to talk to the deceased and a mission to fulfill. But can these two directors live up to the brilliance that was Coraline?

Norman Babcock (Smit-McPhee) is an awkward child with an extraordinary gift, he can see and converse with ghosts. Norman regularly converses with his dead grandmother, much to the exasperation of his incredulous father (Garlin), mother (Mann) and his sister Courtney (Kendrick). An outcast at school, Norman is constantly tormented by Alvin (Mintz-Plasse) and his cronies, and is constantly made fun of over his gift. But when the anniversary of a heinous act in his town’s history approaches, Norman’s estranged Uncle Prenderghast (Goodman) tracks him down as Norman must take over his duty and read from a sacred book in order to save the day. Unfortunately, due to a run-in with Alvin, Norman is late and all hell breaks loose. It’s up to Norman, with the help of his friend Neil (Albrizzi), Neil’s hulking brother Mitch (Affleck), Courtney and Alvin, to save the day and put everything right.

ParaNorman works on almost every level. A smart film and script that doesn’t pander to the audience and also never gets too scary that it might frighten its target audience. The animation style works extremely well and the stop-motion is fantastic, not trying to be anywhere near photo realistic and reminiscent of old Rankin/Bass TV specials, allowing for the fact that it is a classically animated film to shine through. The story is solid, containing many of asides for the adults while remaining completely accessible for kids, although it may not be completely unoriginal with equal parts Sixth Sense and Scooby Doo mixed in. Directors Butler and Fell keep the film tightly paced and on target as it clocks in at a satisfying 93 minutes. The actors performing the voice work all work well here, especially our leads Norman and Neil along with Norman’s perfectly casted parents. The screening I saw of the film was full of youngsters of all ages, some I had pegged no older than 5, and they all were pretty quietly and intently focused on the film throughout, a good sign that they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. In fact, my friend’s son triumphantly declared after the screening that ParaNorman was better than Dark Knight Rises, high praise indeed.

ParaNorman is fun for all ages and for my money the best family entertainment out there at the moment. ParaNorman is a very strong recommend.

ParaNorman is in theaters nationwide starting Friday August 17th.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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