There’s just something so wonderful about animation that is crafted by the hands of the artists themselves. Computer graphics are great and all, especially considering how enriching the films of Pixar, Dreamworks, and various independent companies have been in the last decade or so, but they lack the added soul that goes into stop motion features. Maybe it’s that they exist in our reality at the same time they exist in their own, and thus feed a sense of internal comfort. Maybe it’s just astonishing to think that someone created such a great multifaceted story with their own two hands. Or maybe it’s because the film is just great overall. With this week’s opener, ParaNorman, I’d say it’s because of all three.
ParaNorman is equal parts comedy, horror, and heartfelt drama, with a little boy at the center of it all who can speak with the dead. He’s an outcast in his town, and even his parents think he’s strange. Although his deranged uncle has the same abilities as him, and warns Norman that the more than unusual visuals he’s experiencing are trying to tell him something; that a witch’s ghost is about to rise from the grave to wreak havoc, and he is the only one who can stop it. Norman thus begins his mission to try and convince everyone in town of what is happening, while being chased by ghouls and other creatures.
Upon the start of the film, the first thing you realize is how creepy and dark this is for a film tailored to children. The stop-motion animation really adds a bit of creep factor to the characters, while the design of the characters themselves, their movements, and the general atmosphere that hung over them was downright unnerving and spooky. Coupling that with that with the overall themes and story, ParaNorman is one dark and messed-up movie. Yet what makes it even better is that it is equally hilarious, tributary, and heartfelt at the same time. Norman’s only friend, Neil, is a fat little kid who’s just as lonely, but has the bullish attitude of a punk. Acting as the comedy relief of the film along with Norman’s sister and his brother, a steady stream of laughs and chuckles are supplied throughout, offering fresh and smart jokes that will appeal to both kids and adults. In addition to the jokes, ParaNorman also pokes fun at various classic B-movie horror films of decades past, while also paying homage to some of the worst in the genre (when you see it, you’ll know what I mean).
If you want to see a fantastically animated supernatural movie, then ParaNorman is exactly what you’re looking for. It may be a little corny at times in the heartfelt moments, and sometimes a scene will end anticlimactically, but ParaNorman is this year’s standout animated feature. It’s both a scary and comedic ride through a meticulously crafted world of lively figurines, vastly detailed environments, and ghastly creatures.
9 out of 10