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Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a completely normal boy living in a small town, except for the fact that he sees, and talks to, ghosts. When the town is threatened by an ancient curse, only Norman can save the day.
ParaNorman is the latest film from Laika Animation, the company who brought us the wonderfulCoraline in 2009. As with Coraline, ParaNorman is stop otion animated, clever and a lot of fun.
Writer/Director Chris Butler has created a twist on the classic zombie tale, while making a film that is warm and fun. Those around him consider Norman a freak, but he has a talent that makes him special; he can talk to ghosts. By making Norman a character that children and adults alike can relate to, and the child that many of us has been, Butler allows the audience to see themselves in the protagonist of the story. As well as this, the twist in the tale – which I am not going to reveal – means that the story has a moral that may seem trite, but is utterly true. The film is gleefully ghoulish and, while the story may borrow heavily from the Salem Witches, it is also original and charming. After all, who among us hasn’t felt as though they were misunderstood as kids, and just waited for the moment when we could shine?
The voice talent of the film do their job incredibly well; Kodi Smit-McPhee had his breakout in The Road, and later Let Me In, and his work on Paranorman cements his position as a young actor to watch. Smit-McPhee allows Norman to be a normal young boy, but his sense of wonder at the world that only he can see is conveyed through the actor’s voice. Smit-McPhee is backed up by John Goodman as Mr. Prenderghast, Casey Affleck as Mitch, Anna Kendrick as Courtney and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Alvin. These voice actors add another layer of warmth to an already beautiful film.
Oh wait, haven’t I mentioned that the film is a visual treat? Well it is! There is something comforting about stop motion animation, perhaps it is the fact that we know that the film is essentially handmade, or perhaps it is because we know that somewhere the sets and characters used in the film actually exist; albeit on a much smaller scale. The look of ParaNorman is stylised and deliberate, but the odd look of the film underlines the odd story and subject matter. The animation is fantastically realised, and the design is rich and beautiful.
ParaNorman plays with the zombie myth in several different ways, not least in that the lead character of the film is obsessed with B-Movie Zombies and has some brilliant posters on the wall of his bedroom. As well as this, the film reminds us that not all zombies are the same, and not all of them have brains on the… um… brain.
In all, ParaNorman is a beautiful, funny, macabre and sweet film that has plenty for adults and children alike. The story is a lot of fun, and one that the audience can relate to, while being funny and slightly cosy. If you liked Coraline, you will love this.
Review by Brogen Hayes