Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Movie Review: "ParaNorman" (2012)

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Director: Chris Butler & Sam Fell
Year: 2012
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a young kid that has the ability to see and speak with the dead. This is an ability that makes him a bit of an outcast and a target for the school bully. There is a witch's curse on his town that is said will raise the dead. He is about to learn his crazy uncle has the same ability he does, using it to keep the witch's curse at bay. Now, it's Norman's turn to take over.

"ParaNorman" is the second feature film from Laika Entertainment, the stop-motion animation studio who brought us the creeptastic "Coraline." Kodi Smit-McPhee voices Norman, a young boy who can see and speak with the dead. Most of the people in his town see Norman as a freak. He is regularly bullied at school, primarily by a kid named Alvin, voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Norman's uncle Prenderghast, voiced by John Goodman, a man who everyone thinks is crazy, comes to Norman and tells him they share the same gift and he has been using it to keep the 300 year old witch's curse at bay. Legend has it, this curse will raise the dead of those who convicted the witch and hung her. Now, it's up to Norman to stop the curse with the help of his sister Courtney, voiced by Anna Kendrick, his new friend Neil, voiced by Tucker Albrizzi, Neil's brother Mitch, voiced by Casey Affleck, and surprisingly, Alvin the bully.

This is a fantastically fun and frightful film. The animation is amazing and stop-motion is the perfect medium for these creepy kinds of tales. It is one of our favorite styles of animation and we love the detail and effort that goes into it, especially with a borderline horror story like this one. You can tell a lot of time was taken to perfect each character, look, and action within this story. The sets and character design are so wonderful and twisted. It's a kids film about zombies, witches, and ghosts that is perfect for those trying to get into the Halloween (or maybe just the macabre) spirit. We love these Laika productions because they never talk down to kids, but instead, treat them as actual human people who can handle a little bit of scariness. "ParaNorman" is also really funny and an exciting adventure with great performances delivered by the aforementioned voice actors, most notably Smit-McPhee, Kendrick, and Albrizzi, but also Leslie Mann and Jeff Garlin, who play Norman's folks Sandra and Perry Babcock. Besides being a somewhat scary tale, this is also a heartwarming story with a good message about understanding those who are different, the perfect lesson for any child to learn at any age. It also talks about not responding to fear with violence and sometimes needing to face fears by talking through them and learning about them so there is no longer a reason to be frightened by them.

In the end, "ParaNorman" is an awesome movie with a fantastic message wrapped in a horrific, twisted, dark package. This is a fun film for getting into the spirit of Halloween, and is no doubt a movie we would revisit again and again.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 87%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
One year ago, we were watching: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze"

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