- Directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler
- August 3, 2012 (Mexico) / August 17, 2012 (US) / January 10, 2013 (Australia)
- Norman Babcock-Kodi Smit-McPhee
- Agatha “Aggie” Prenderghast-Jodelle Ferland
- Judge Hopkins-Bernard Hill
- Neil Downe-Tucker Albrizzi
- Courtney Babcock-Anna Kendrick
- Alvin-Christopher Mintz-Plasse
- Mitch Downe-Casey Affleck
- Mr. Prenderghast-John Goodman
- Grandma Babcock-Elaine Stritch
- Perry Babcock-Jeff Garlin
- Sandra Babcock-Leslie Mann
- Sheriff Hooper-Tempestt Bledsoe
- Mrs. Henscher-Alex Borstein
- Salma-Hannah Noyes
- Crystal, Parachutist Ghost-Bridget Hoffman
- Deputy Wayne-Scott Menville
A young boy who can talk to the dead learns he must save his town from a vengeful spirit.
Animated zombie movie with a message? Sure! I’m game. Zombie films often have a touch of commentary and having it in a kid’s film sounded interesting. ParaNorman is a funny and entertaining animated feature by Laika that is great to look at and contains themes of friendship and being true to yourself as well as making amends for what you have done wrong. There is even a bit about not being consumed by anger.
Much like in The Sixth Sense the story involves a young boy (here named Norman) who can see and speak to dead people. This is not a scary situation for him. The dead he sees tend to be rather friendly and treat him like a pal while the living do not understand him and even at times torment him. His family thinks he is strange-on a good day. He has no friends until young outcast Neil forces his way into being one to Norman and is often the source of bullying just because he is different.
Much like in life, history repeats itself. Lessons are not learned and while the players may change the story remains the same. The ‘witch’ has the same gift as Norman, but the ignorance of the locals caused her to become an outcast and be labeled a witch and executed. Over time the young Agatha’s spirit became consumed with anger and hate over an immutable past. What it appears to be saying is that you cannot hold on to anger. That doing so is a damaging thing. It fixes nothing and harms all.
During the course of the story those around Norman come to accept his differences. His dad reluctantly comes to be okay with his abilities. The general public thinks it is cool once they understand what he can do. And Norman’s sister Courtney, who is a bit shallow and hot guy obsessed, sees that she may have been unnecessarily tough on her brother and ends up a bit supportive of him. Very Disney but not done with that Disney saccharine shallow way.
ParaNorman has plenty of witty dialogue and quite a few funny moments. Not much gets a lantern hung on it and shoved in your face. It just happens and the characters take it as is which makes it all that much funnier. The van falling apart is a great example. The strongest reaction comes from the van’s owner Mitch which is a bit mournful at the loss of his prized vehicle.
One of the running gags in this film is Courtney throwing herself at Mitch who seems more than a bit clueless about her advances. The reveal at the end is rather funny and made Mitch the first openly gay character in an animated feature.
ParaNorman is well written. It’s not overly silly or overly dramatic. Rather it’s about an unusual boy trying to fit in and come to terms with who he is as well as those around him trying to understand him. Nobody is this silly mean or evil. Nobody is framed as a villain in ParaNorman. Rather they are ignorant or just plain wrong. Each misunderstanding compounds those of others leading to serious issues for society at large. Nobody seems able to make the first steps to fixing things.
This is stop motion animation which is a rarity when it comes to film. It’s amazing to look at and gives the end product a bit of an older horror appearance. What we get here could not be done with 2-D animation or even CGI animation. Traditional animation could not have been as immersive and CGI lacks that touch of reality no matter how well it is done. This like other Laika productions is family friendly yet mature. It never talks down to the audience. Instead it is a lighter bit of comedic drama with something to say.
ParaNorman is a great piece of animation that has some deeper themes in just an entertaining story. It is beautiful to look at and just entertaining. It is a must watch!