Cleverly written with unexpected twists on the subgenre, ParaNorman's Stop Motion puppetry delivers adult gags and juvenile frights with an important lesson for all.
Awkwardness is the hallmark of childhood, more so during the transition to adolescence. Having the ability to see ghosts thrown in the mix is bound to complicate things. This is where directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell have succeeded - showcasing the effects of being "different" and how a failure to understand, or to try and understand, even in silence, can perpetuate and damage at an equal level to straight-up, in-you-face bullying. Instead of lashing out, our hero takes on a more noble approach, one that is not often seen in stories aimed for the young or the grown-ups who take them to see it. Cleverly written with unexpected twists on the subgenre, ParaNorman's Stop Motion puppetry delivers adult gags and juvenile frights with an important lesson for all.
Meet Norman Babc*ck, a kid who can see ghosts - but not in the Sixth Sense sense. Talking to them causes everyone to look at him funny and merits the writing of "FREAK" on his locker so much that he stores his own cleaner to wash it off. His family is hard enough to get along with, but things turn for the worst when Norman sees a vision of the dead coming back to life. Vested with a book from his deceased uncle, Norman must find a witch's grave and read from the book to keep a centuries old curse at bay. The adventure that follows will change his life forever.
I was impressed with the 3D of LAIKA's previous film Coraline so much that I didn't mind spending a little extra - and I'm glad I did. It's been said that 3D looks best with animated film and, for some reason, tends to make Stop Motion smoother on the eyes. The extra dimension brings out the details with a healthy ensemble of set models that easily transports viewers to a fictional New England setting. The characters are a joy to watch. The details manage to stand out in a naturalistic manner, from the sunlight behind Norman's ears to his sister's pink lip gloss.
The film's humor stands out throughout the film, with a little more language than expected, which at the same time grafts the characters' personalities into believable ones. It was like watching a paranormal version of The Goonies. The cast makes an even greater contribution, particularity with a surprise appearance by John Goodman as Norman's eccentric uncle.
Most impressive of all was the unexpected role the zombies played, and the witch for that matter, topped with the question of what would you do if you are wronged? Will making others suffer make things better or perpetuate more of the same? The answer is both correct and succinct. By the film's end, Norman has a gift that's equally strong to his ability to see ghosts: his heart.
A few parts felt disjointed, however, like the overuse of "flashing to white" for cliffhanger effect and conveniently removing the parents from the story - twice. The witch's face going double during her shorts fits of rage also felt out of place and unnecessary - to each his own. I would like to see more of Norman's interactions with the dead. They vanished the moment Norman's uncle gave him his quest. The locals also had this "thrown in" quality, which made me not particularly care for them.
It surprises me to say that, in spite of its minuscule storytelling flaws, ParaNorman is the first great animated film of the year. It's been a tough year for satisfying animation, but the fall season looks to pack a few surprises, one would hope. Flex your brawn and leave your brain at home when you go see this supernatural ride.
And don't make me throw this hummus. It's sp*cy.
(By Movieweb's Diaigma- resemblance to other reviews is coincidental)