ParaNorman has a clever plot, interesting characters, some good laughs and a few intense, scary moments. Despite its PG rating, ParaNorman may be too frightening for viewers under 10 but people who enjoy smart horror will enjoy what this clever Claymation film has to offer. What would have been a perfect Halloween release gets squeezed out early but the deep 3D and brilliant animation makes it worth seeing this gem in the theater.
The titular Norman is an ostracized little boy who has the ability (and propensity) to talk to the dead. As a result his family doesn’t understand him and his peers taunt him, resulting in a sad, lonely life that he fills with horror movies and chats with dead relatives. When Norman starts having visions of the past he realizes that he is going to need to save his town from a zombie invasion, banding together with a group of unlikely allies.
The animation in ParaNorman is lovely and nuanced, portraying subtle emotion without broad strokes. The director often goes in for a close-up on faces, allowing his “actors” to tell the story through physicality and not dialogue, a common mistake in animation. The vocal performances—a mix of stars and a staid stable of voice actors—is serviceable and never distracting.
Despite being just 93 minutes long, ParaNorman drags at times though I can’t point to any particular moment that could be trimmed. The comedy is at times simple and obvious but never offensively so. There are a few horrifying sequences but it’s not a tense start-to-finish thrill-ride. ParaNorman is a pleasant balance of comedy, horror and story.
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