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ParaNorman

ParaNorman

Released 14 September 2012
Director Chris Butler, Sam Fell
Starring



Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin
Writer(s) Chris Butler
Producer(s) Travis Knight, Arianne Sutner
Origin United States
Running Time 92 minutes
Genre Animation, adventure, comedy
Rating PG
77

Those pesky kids.

A quick synopsis of ParaNorman may have certain audience members rolling their eyes. Norman is a young loner who can communicate with the dead, something which causes other children to pick on him. When a witch’s curse causes the dead to rise, it is up to Norman to overcome his bullies and lead a mismatched group of allies to save his small town from destruction by zombie. So far so cliché, but ParaNorman goes way beyond the standard tropes of children’s animation and grown up horror, and the result is a wonderful blend of the two which contains the best elements to appeal to fans of both.

From Laika – the studio that brought you CoralineParaNorman represents an even greater advancement in the field of stop motion. Considering every scene had to be hand modelled frame by frame, some of the shots are absolutely baffling in their complexity. It’s impossible to experience this film without a true sense of wonder.

The voice cast – crucial to the success of any animation – are all excellent, and bring an enormous amount of depth and humour to their characters. Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me InThe Road) absolutely shines in the lead role, and is well reinforced by a supporting cast that includes Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann and John Goodman.

ParaNorman is peppered with plenty of fun references to horror genre throughout. There are a couple of wonderful Halloween/Friday the 13th references in quick succession, and a few knowing nods to Scooby Doo thrown in for good measure. I think there might even be an Evil Dead reference in there. But most of all ParaNorman pays tribute to a genre without spoofing it or making it ridiculous. By taking on a lot of weighty themes like bullying and dealing with them in a serious way, it also transcends mere cartoonish silliness, while still (somehow) managing to be very, very funny.

Equally commendable is the fact that the film never talks down to a younger audience, but gives kids enough credit to be able to understand a more adult approach to storytelling. ParaNorman is a film for kids who (like the main character) enjoy the kind of films they shouldn’t be allowed to watch at all, or for the kids at heart who enjoy the combination of clever storytelling and lovingly crafted characters which has made Pixar so popular. Indeed Pixar may consider itself warned, because between this and Coraline, Laika studios appears to present a formidable challenge to everyone else working in animation.

- Bernard O’Rourke