ParaNorman is the new stop motion animated movie from Focus Features, who previously gave us the 2009 Coraline. ParaNorman focuses on a young boy, Norman, who is the town pariah because of his unnatural ability to talk with dead people which causes him day-to-day drama. His inability to relate to his family or his peers keeps Norman at arms length from society until he realizes his ability might be the only thing that can save the town from a witch’s 300-year-old curse; leading him and an unlikely group of kids to save the day.
The film’s writers have created a movie that is fun for all ages and feels like a mix between Ghostbusters and The Goonies. It’s a fun and hilarious story that isn’t afraid to mess with genre expectations.
The visual aesthetic of the film stands out the most. The world of ParaNorman is beautifully animated, with visually stunning sets and characters. Unlike some films, the 3D doesn’t feel forceful or intrusive. Character design is especially great; each one has their own unique trait and the details are nothing short of amazing, fFrom the way the wind blows everyone’s hair differently to the simple style of each character’s clothes.
This was obviously a labor of love for the people who created this fantastic world.
The character archetypes are nothing new (the jock, the bully, the nerd, the mean sister, etc) but each is developed well, and each has their “moment” to help Norman though his journey. The voice actors, including Kodi Smit-McPhee, John Goodman, Jeff Garland, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Anna Kendrick, bring a nice mix of funny and macabre to each of the characters. Norman interacts with the dead on a daily basis and you need an actor who can convey that with just his voice. Kodi Smit-McPhee shows wonderful humor and timing, nailing it with every grunt and disappointed sigh at the clueless adults that won’t listen to him.
Nothing is sugarcoated in the movie. Norman deals with death all the time, so it stands to reason that death will be dealt within the film. There are some mild scares that I’m sure a few kids might have some issues with, but nothing that hasn’t been seen before, and it’s done so exquisitely that when the story does go dark it’s not a surprise. It’ll leave you with a wonderful feeling and perhaps even a few tears.
At once funny, heart-warming and dark, ParaNorman will delight people for years, especially during the Halloween season.