Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road), Tucker Albrizzi (Bridesmaids), Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad)
Directors: Sam Fell (Flushed Away) & Chris Butler
Writer: Chris Butler
Runtime: 1 hour 32 minutes
Release Date: August 17th (US), September 14th (UK)
I had no real expectations going into ParaNorman. I hadn’t been religiously following it up until release, and didn’t really pay attention to it until the good reviews started coming in upon its US release. And now that I’ve finally watched it, I can easily say that ParaNorman is the best animated film of the year so far.
The plot is fairly straightforward and easy to follow for a kid’s film, but what’s original about ParaNorman isn’t its broad plot, but its slight intricacies. The exact character traits and plot points are against the grain and not what you’d expect (a couple of them could be seen as revolutionary). The film is very fast paced and doesn’t stop moving once the second act kicks into gear. The jokes, while not consistently hitting, fly so fast you hardly notice the bad ones. There are many references to classic horror movies (Norman’s ringtone is the Halloween theme. Nice!) and the film even opens with a tribute to Grindhouse. Not sure how many kids are going to get that reference, but its still awesome.
The film has a high quality cast that helps to bring some of these eccentric characters to life. Smit-Mcphee can sometimes be a little dull as Norman, but considering the loner attitude of the character, it fits. Mintz-Plasse does a good job as the bully Alvin, but even in the animated world he can’t escape being recognised as McLovin. The stand-outs for me in the cast were Affleck as the jock Mitch (a certain revelation about him is hysterical, John Goodman as Norman’s hobo uncle, and Jeff Garlin as Norman’s dad. The rest of the voices fit well with their characters, but don’t really stand out as much. Oh, and Jodelle Ferland plays another creepy child. Haven’t seen that before *sarcasm*.
But the stand out thing about ParaNorman is the animation. This was the same company that did Coraline, and it shows. The stop-motion feels so much smoother than films by Aardman, and really helps to suck you in. The art style, while very reminiscent of Tim Burton or Henry Selick, is beautifully realised to create some very detailed environments and set-pieces. The range of facial expressions, helped by the use of 3D printers, are astounding. CG is often used but, like with Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, it is used only to expand upon the stop-motion, not replace it. The music is also really good and balances a thin line between whimsy and horror flawlessly.
In conclusion, ParaNorman isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s still a damn great one and one I could see myself popping around Halloween. It often feels as if it caters more to adults than kids, but I think the entire family can enjoy this one as long as your kids aren’t too squeamish. Its technical achievments may outshine its story, but is still a fun ride regardless. Don’t miss it.
FINAL VERDICT: 8/10