Out Now On-Demand
It's all fun and games until someone raises the dead.
3D stop-motion animated zombie comedy from the makers of Coraline about a spooky, misunderstood boy called on to save his small town from the undead, a centuries-old curse and - worst of all - moronic grown-ups. "Ghoul whisperer" Norman is voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In). The voice cast also includes John Goodman, Leslie Mann, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck and Jeff Garlin.
Norman's a boy with a special ability that allows him to communicate with the dead, but neither his family nor other kids believe him, making him somewhat of an outcast in the town of Blithe Hollow. When a witch's curse raises a legion of zombies, however, Norman turns out to be the boy for the job of stopping them - thanks to the advice of a recently-deceased uncle.
Animated, Comedy, Kids & Family, Fantasy, 3D
Rating: PG scary scenes
Of the recent animated kiddie spook-fests, such as Frankenweenie and Hotel Transylvania, ParaNorman has the most consistently engaging recalibration of R-rated horror tropes for the PG crowd - though imperfect and at times frustratingly derivative. It’s the latest effort from Laika studios, whose stop-motion wizardry previously gave us Coraline, and though ParaNorman lacks the psychological depth and sinister ingenuity of that Henry Selick film, it combines genre savviness and supernatural slapstick to mostly pleasing results.
The film’s theme of social exclusion is a familiar one, recognisably embodied by 11-year- old Norman (Kodi Smith McPhee), a freaky misfit who’s able - a la The Sixth Sense - to see and talk to ghosts. His family doesn’t understand why he’s communicating with his very dead grandma, he’s constantly picked on by a dopey bully (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and his only friend is Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), a bubbly, chubby ginga who, in an example of the film’s occasional dip into near-fratty humour, likes butt-ogling at aerobics vids.
The plot’s build-up - Norman discovering he’s the only one who can stop the looming curse of a witch - is perhaps paced more deliberately than most animated features, but by halfway point, the screen will be scattered with reality-bending visions, green-glowing ghouls, gangly- limbed zombies and marauding pitchfork-wielding mobs - all of which play like John Carpenter or George Romero pitched at tykes. ParaNorman loses steam in the predictably extended climactic swirl of CGI phantasmagoria and preachy peacemaking, but for the most part, its winningly cockeyed grasp of the macabre makes it ideal scare-fare for families.
AV Club (USA)
Little White Lies (UK)
Los Angeles Times
New York Times
Total Film (UK)