Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘ParaNorman’ Review: Spooky Fun For Kids and Adults

If you love “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Coraline” or Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride,” you’ll love Focus Feature’s stop-motion animation film, “ParaNorman.”

Laika Entertainment, who brought us 2009’s wondrous “Coraline,” has produced the best animation film I’ve seen in years. Although I don’t think “ParaNorman” is as frightening as “Coraline,” it is full of zombies, ghosts and witches.

What makes “ParaNorman” extra enjoyable is the fact that it’s stop-motion animation and in most cases, takes much longer to create than a live-action feature film. The animators make puppets, sets, multiple facial expressions for the characters and so much more. For example, Norman had over 8,000 faces made for him and whenever his expression changes (which is a lot), the animator puts a new face on him.

“ParaNorman” was shot 24 frames per second, which means the producers and animators shoot 24 pictures of one frame, stop, then change the puppet’s movements or expression. With that being said, “ParaNorman” took about two years to accomplish. This is not easy work and when a film takes this long to make, it usually means the animators and director really have a great story to tell, which makes it much more enjoyable for us to watch.

Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is an 11-year-old outcast, who literally has a “sixth sense”: he can see ghosts and talk to them. He regularly talks to his ghosty grandmother (Elaine Stritch), who still puts around the house asking Norman to turn up the thermostat. His parents (Jeff Garlin and Leslie Mann) believe he’s still going through a grieving stage, even though his grandmother’s been dead for years, and his sister Courtney (an amazing voice performance by Anna Kendrick) thinks he’s a freak of nature.

Norman is bullied at school by Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and makes friends with other outcast Neil (Tucker Albrizzi). When Neil realizes that Norman can talk to his dead dog that still roams around in the backyard, the two immediately become BFF despite what Neil’s brother, Mitch (Casey Affleck) advises.

When an ancient witch casts a spell on the town that threatens the dead to rise up again, Norman finds himself having to play “ghostbuster” for the night along with a few unexpected friends.

Everyone involved in the making of “ParaNorman” really does a fantastic job here. We have a story we’ve been told before, but a hero so likable and unique in his own quirky ways, we just can’t help but love him! The animation is fascinating and the voice acting will certainly surprise you.

What’s more, “ParaNorman” plays homage to a few horror classics including, “Friday the 13th,” “The Night of the Living Dead” and “Poltergeist,” making the 90-minute long film all the more awesome.

Treat yourself to “ParaNorman” this weekend. The voice acting is incredible, the story is touching and our lead character is originally heroic. However, I would skip the 3D as it doesn’t do much here, but even so, “ParaNorman” is a fun film for every age and one I will be seeing again soon.

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