Directors: Sam Fell, Chris Butler
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, John Goodman
Running Time: 92 minutes
Release Date: September 14th
The painstaking art of stop-motion animation has seen a renaissance of late, 2012 bringing with it two of the mediums finest entries; earlier this summer we saw Aardman’s splendid The Pirates! and this week Laika’s incredible Amblin-esque comedy zombie homage ParaNorman hits screens.
Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is in many ways a regular kid; he likes scary movies, school’s a pain and his family don’t quite get him, with the exception of his doting grandmother. All fairly unremarkable until you consider the fact that she—as with most of the characters Norman interacts with—is a stiff, six feet under, pushing up daisies: dead. When a centuries old curse causes a pack or ambling corpses to descend upon his hometown of Blithe Hollow, Norman must use his post mortem conversation skills to fight the supernatural threat.
The years have been kind to stop motion animation, it’s no stretch to say that it’s easily one of the most gorgeous storytelling mediums out there. ParaNorman combines it with digital effects in unprecedented ways and the result is spectacular. The film drips with personality, unique and eccentric, from the absurdly proportioned characters and playful animation to the eerie supernatural visuals. Match this with the film’s assured sense of identity—a perfect blend of throwback horror and family filmmaking—and the result is a superbly defined piece of cinema.
The story hits many familiar—and satisfying—beats, but it throws just as many curve balls, playing gleefully with genre conventions all in service of it’s admirable themes of fear and exclusion. Certain moments don’t quite ring true, notably a pivotal scene where Norman’s cadre desert him, having had enough of his weirdness—an odd move considering the sudden Zombie invasion has thoroughly validated said weirdness.
The measure of a truly great kids film is just how much it offers older viewers, and in this regard ParaNorman is off the scale. Grown up humour seeps subtly from every pore of the film, balanced perfectly with slapstick hoo-hah that’ll give kids a giggle. The scares are less universally effective, youngsters may get the spooks, but parents have little more to fear than the possibility of some sleepless kids.
ParaNorman has resurrected the horror comedy genre by way of some stop motion voodoo and the result is unmissable. Make sure to stay for the hammer horror throwback credit sequence, it’ll make that smile on your face last just that little bit longer.