Here's the historical designation of the new
The other distinction worth noting: In this summer of 2012, "ParaNorman" is one of the good movies. Though not up to the riches of "Coraline," also made by the folks at LAIKA, Inc., an animation company in Hillsboro, Ore., "ParaNorman" blends its strains of
Young Norman has a vertical mini-forest of hair and two rectangular, quizzical eyebrows. His home life is bordered by a harsh older sister, a hot-tempered father and a loving but weary mother. Norman has the "Sixth Sense" problem: He sees dead people, one of them being his kindly grandmother, floating around the family home. The grandmother is voiced by Broadway legend
Bullied at school, Norman's shadowed by his mysterious Mr. Prenderghast who is desperate to share a secret involving the town's witch-curse. "ParaNorman" morphs into a variation on the movies Norman loves, specifically the undead-focused. There's a sad story of another misunderstood preteen at the root of the curse, and Norman must lead his own band of misfits on a quest to solve the riddle and save the town.
The notion that witch-hunt and pack-animal persecution recur throughout human history gives "ParaNorman" its foundation. The notion that stray body parts, acting alone and acting up, are a solid source of visual slapstick gives the film its comic spark. It's too bad screenwriter and co-director Chris Butler (Sam Fell is the other director) larded the story with 21/2 action climaxes when one would do. The movie, I think, errs by going for the conventionally scary and bombastic Big Finish, even though it's a Melancholy Big Finish, and therefore more intriguing than the average everyday "Ice Age" sequel Big Finish.
What works about "ParaNorman" is its subtle interweave of the stoical and the heroic. The voice work is inspired, without a lot of theatrical flourish. The low-key musical score by Jon Brion, one of the year's best, teases out the macabre humor in each new challenge faced by Norman.
For all their painstaking detail, I never much took to the Tim Burton universe of stop-motion,
'ParaNorman' -- 3 stars
Running time: 1:33