ParaNorman (2012)

What a delightful little oddball of a film. ParaNorman is a stop-motion feature from the same production company who brought us Coraline, and it’s easy to spot the similarities. Both are charming and creepy stop-motion family films, while bringing enough jokes and even chills to keep the parents in the audience entertained.

The somewhat thin premise is that Norman, a preteen boy who can speak to the dead, has to break a witch’s curse in his New England town celebrating its 300th anniversary. The fairly simple plot fortunately is brought to life through the colorful cast of supporting characters; Norman’s school bully (voiced by the actor who played McLovin of all people!) and Norman’s older sister are just two of the highlights.

A surprising edge and wit also keep the story feeling fresh and engaging throughout the film. In one of the laugh-out-loud moments, Norman’s mentor (another ghost whisperer) tells Norman to “swear” to break the witch’s curse, to which Norman replies, “Like what? The ‘f’ word?”

Toward the third act the plot runs a little long (particularly in the surreal and visually entrancing, yet ultimately predictable climax) but the journey is consistently engaging and intriguing. Stop-motion films consistently produce fascinating worlds that are tons of fun to explore (especially in 3D) and ParaNorman is no exception; you almost want the screen to pause so you can better appreciate the detail in the setting and characters.

While it does clock on for a bit too long, ParaNorman is still a breath of fresh air for animation, providing solid and quality entertainment with some really stunning visuals. It is very rare and exciting to find a family horror film with genuine thrills, and is even more special to find one with such a strong and endearing young protagonist.

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