"ParaNorman", the recent handcrafted wonder from the stop-motion artists at Laika Inc., draws on a deep affection for horror movies and a keen sense of spooky, snarly fun. British directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell recognize the natural affinity offered by horror movies to kids who don’t fit in, which is the best way to describe the film’s nominal hero, 11-year-old Norman Babcock. The movie through that kid's eyes explores the way people deal with the unknown, how we fear those who are different, and the manner in which ignorance and intolerance create prejudices that become entrenched.
PlotYoung Norman (voice of Kodi Smit-McPhee), with his vertical hair and rectangular eyebrows, lives his home life surrounded by a harsh older sister (Anna Kendrick), a hot-tempered father (Jeff Garlin) and a loving but weary mother (Leslie Mann). Like the boy in "Sixth Sense", Norman sees ghost and converses with them. At home, his parents grumble at him for talking to his dead grandmother (Elaine Stritch). It takes a lot of time for Norman to walk to school. since he's so busy exchanging pleasantries with the ghosts that haunt his town named 'Blithe Hollow.' The town is the site of a famous witch hunt 300 years ago and now a tourist attraction.
Norman is regularly harassed by the school-bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), but he finds a friend in the chubby and similarly persecuted Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), who also offer a little advice to Norman: “You can’t stop bullying – it’s part of human nature.” One day, Norman's outcast, overgrown uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman), warns him about an ancient curse that will soon take effect, causing the dead to rise again. When his uncle's warning comes true it seems he’s the only person who can save the town from the spirit of a witch hanged 300 years ago.
AnalysisParaNorman is a typical, classic-horror movie stuff -- the outcast having to protect the town and his tormentors. It sounds as a standard horror film. In some respects it is, but "ParaNorman" goes deeper than that with its issues of trust, betrayal, love and forgiveness. The movie has lot of Tim Burton-esque visuals, minus the potty humor -- except a scene featuring the demise of Norman's uncle. Butler (directorial debut) and Sam Fell (a veteran of stop-motion films) has directed the movie in a ingenious and wonderfully detailed way, though 'ParaNorman' is better in its imaginative horror than its slightly too-broad comic knockabout. They both maintain a nice balance between the funny, the silly, the scary and the moving. Fell and Butler also gives us a few surprises, especially when it comes to the question of monsters and what makes them monstrous.
Blithe Hollow's ram-shackled houses and the colonial-style architecture and the photography of William Eggleston, convey a striking sense of place. The story's surroundings provides an anchor for its more fantastic images, such as a witch's face looking malevolently down from the skies. Only the images in the third-act, especially climax -- a blinding-white vision -- sticks out from the rest of the film, albeit one compensated for by the sequence's sheer emotional force. Voice-works are first-rate, particularly Smit-McPhee's winning underdog turn.
"ParaNorman" is not quite on the level of "Coraline" or Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas", but it is never less than entertaining. It cleverly mixes fun with some dark delights.
ParaNorman - IMDb