Written by Chris Butler
Directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler
Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck and Christopher Mintz-Plasse
With the excessive number of tame, CGI animated children’s movies out there, ParaNorman is a breath of fresh air that goes against the grain in many ways. The revival of stop-motion animation, clever throwbacks to horror movies of the past and a dynamic voice cast make this film a terrific summer adventure.
The film revolves around a boy named Norman Babcock who can talk to ghosts. Due to a centuries-old curse, the dead rise in his home town of Blithe Hollow, and only the gifted Norman and his friends can put the cursed zombies back into the grave.
Although paranormal motifs have been featured in animated films before, ParaNorman manages to distinguish itself from films past. While most animated features dazzle viewers with CGI effects, this film takes the audience back to the days of stop-motion claymation, which has nearly fizzled out in today’s cartoon universe. Incidentally, ParaNorman combines new and old animation techniques, becoming the first 3-D stop-animation film to date. This hybrid of new and old animation styles results in an adorable, one-of-a-kind viewing experience, which is ultimately one of the film’s greatest strengths.
Well-executed animation isn’t the only thing that carries this unique cartoon though. Writer and co-director Chris Butler’s dynamic screenplay is full of clever puns, slapstick humour and throwbacks to horror films like Halloween and Friday the 13th, which keep the laughs flowing through even the darkest, spookiest scenes of the film. Butler’s script achieves exactly what a paranormal animated feature would want to and then some.
Still, the potential of this adventurous screenplay couldn’t have been fully reached without the work of ParaNorman’s exceptional voice talent. Although the entire vocal cast delivers a solid performance, several stars shine above the rest. The title character is voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee, who viewers may recognize from romantic-horror film Let Me In. Smit-McPhee’s unique voice fits Norman’s character perfectly and breathes life into the character beyond his lines.
Other notable vocal performances come from Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Norman’s bully, Alvin, and from John Goodman as Mr.Prenderghast, a crazy older man who shares Norman’s obscure gift, adding even more flare to an already adventurous film.
Despite dealing with some spooky and mature coming-of-age themes, ParaNorman is ultimately an action-filled movie tailored for the entire family. The bond between characters and goofy jokes manages to bring a heaping dose of cuteness to this animated feature, cementing ParaNorman as one of the most unique and adorable children’s films to come along in a long time.
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