I am a huge fan of stop-motion animation. There is nothing else that looks like it. Watching stop-motion animation is always enticing to me no matter how the story line or characters are handled. It is always a treat when a movie like ParaNorman comes along that happens to have amazing stop-motion animation but also a great story and interesting and engaging characters.
ParaNorman comes from the same minds that made Coraline a few years back – a stop-motion film that I highly recommend. While these films seem to be made for children, they can be enjoyed by adults as well.
ParaNorman follows Norman, a young boy with the ability to talk to spirits. The problem is that no one believes him and he is an outsider, even in his own house. His parents don’t understand him and his sister is just bothered by him. Unknown to them and to Norman at first, he is the only person who can save their town from a century-old witch's curse.
The film is full of fun characters. Besides Norman and his family there is Norman’s friend Neil and Neil’s brother Mitch. Neil is a short, fat, dorky kid who isn’t going to let anything get him down. Mitch is Neil’s jock older brother who doesn’t seem to quite know how to handle things that aren’t associated with working out. A bully named Alvin is there to push Norman around and make sure he knows he isn’t like everyone else. There is also a group of zombies chasing everyone around town.
While the character designs are great and look amazing in motion, the thing that makes the movie so good is how all of the characters go a little against type. The zombies are more than meets the eye. The jock’s personality is off and you don’t understand why until the very end. It’s these little tweaks to the same old "kid movie formula" that really make it shine. The film also has humor aimed just above children's heads and more toward the adults without going over the top like some movie do. (The Shrek series comes to mind.)
One thing I will say about ParaNorman and really any stop-motion animation film is that they seem to be an acquired taste. The art style is very gothic and stylized. I happen to really enjoy it but I know some people aren’t as big a fan. This movie also has some very creepy imagery at some points. Not as bad a Coraline or The Nightmare Before Christmas. But children under 5 might be a little freaked out. Other than that I have to say that ParaNorman is a smart, funny, well-made kid's film that adults will also enjoy.
4 of 5 Stars