Synopsis: ParaNorman is set in the town of Blithe Hollow, whose locals profit from mining the town’s history as the site, 300 years ago, of a famous witch hunt. 11-year-old Norman Babcock (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee of Let Me In and The Road) spends much of his days appreciating the finer points of scary movies and studying ghost lore. In fact, Norman is gifted with the ability to see and speak with the dead, such as his beloved grandmother (Elaine Stritch). Norman bravely summons up all that makes a hero – courage and compassion – as he finds his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.
Release Date: August 17, 2012 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Animation, Thriller
In ParaNorman, Norman Babcock (voice of Kodi Smit-McPhee from Let Me In) is a pretty typical kid. He gets bullied at school, he enjoys watching zombie movies and his best friend is his grandmother. The thing is, his grandmother is dead. And Grandma is not the only ghost that Norman can see. Everywhere he goes, there are spirits that say hello to him and stop him to chat. Norman lives in Blithe Hollow; a town that, 300 years ago, was a hotbed of witchcraft activity and jumped into persecuting it with both feet. Norman’s uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman from “Roseanne”) can also see ghosts and is regarded as the town crazy because of it.
Unbeknownst to the town, Prenderghast has been keeping an old witch’s curse from coming to fruition for years, but this year, he unexpectedly dies before he can stop it. So, of course, Prenderghast’s ghost goes to the one person that he knows can hear him: Norman. Once Prenderghast convinces Norman of what he must do, Norman sets off on a frightening mission to hold the curse off, but with only half the information he needs, he ends up raising a group of zombies during his quest that wants to stop him – and terrorize the town, too.
This is the plot of ParaNorman, the new film from Laika Entertainment, the people behind Coraline and The Corpse Bride. While it’s a cute and fun movie, it’s not for really young kids; ParaNorman is very dark, fairly scary and totally deserving of its PG rating. The script, written by first-time screenwriter Chris Butler (who worked on the storyboards for Coraline and The Corpse Bride), is a clever mixture of “Scooby Doo” and The Evil Dead, a children’s mystery mashed up with witchcraft and zombies.
All that, plus a great cast of voices that includes not only Smit-McPhee and Goodman, but Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Kick-Ass), Tempestt Bledsoe (“The Cosby Show”) and Anna Kendrick (The Twilight Saga), makes ParaNorman a pretty solid watch.
Although less gothic and poetic, ParaNorman will appeal to the same crowd that embraces films like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline/. But it will also appeal to the horror junkies. ParaNorman is a children’s movie made by horror fans. Directors Butler and Sam Fell (Flushed Away, The Tale of Despereaux) throw in enough inside jokes and cinema references to keep the adults amused while their kids watch, too.
For example, at one point, Norman’s cell sounds its ringtone, John Carpenter’s theme from Halloween, and he looks out his window to see his friend, Neil (voice of Tucker Albrizzi), standing in his backyard amidst the laundry hanging from the clothesline, a shot that is identical to one that appears in the original Halloween. ParaNorman is full of fun allusions like that, quoting classics like Friday the 13th and Night of the Living Dead, too, among others. Adults that bring their pre-teens to ParaNorman will easily enjoy it just as much as their kids do.
The animation in ParaNorman is amazing. In a world where CG animation is king, ParaNorman uses old-fashioned stop-motion animation, and just about everything that is seen onscreen has been built, decorated, lit and photographed by a real person (or people). The characters are all meticulously sculpted puppets, carefully painted and costumed on a set that was built and dressed so that the subjects could be photographed one frame at a time.
The result is an animated film that is extremely cinematic. It has all of the form and theory of a well-shot live-action movie mixed with the surrealism of the cartoonish characters. The animation is shot in 3D, but it is free of most of the silly, in-your-face gimmicks that plague most 3D cartoons. Because of the stop-motion, ParaNorman‘s 3D is layered and textural, much like a contemporary live-action 3D film. With a look and feel that is both modern and retro, ParaNorman isn’t just a good animated film; it’s a good movie, period.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Chris Butler
- Producer(s): Travis Knight, Arianne Sutner
- Screenwriter(s): Chris Butler
- Cast: Anna Kendrick (voice of Courtney), Leslie Mann (voice of Sandra Babcock), Elaine Stitch (voice of Grandma), Jodelle Ferland (voice of Aggie), Temprestt Bledsoe (voice of Sheriff Hooper), Casey Affleck (voice of Mitch), Tucker Albrizzi (voice of Neil), Jeff Garlin (voice of Perry), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Norman)
- Cinematographer: Tristan Oliver
- Music Score: Jon Brion
- Country Of Origin: USA