Every year, we’re flooded with a pocket of animated movies aimed towards the younger demographic. Luckily, creative companies like Laika, produce films that everybody can enjoy. They provide us with strong central themes that man, woman and child can relate to. ParaNorman succeeds on many levels, and despite its small flaws is easily one of the strongest animated movies of 2012.

The Players:

The Plot:

Norman (Smit-McPhee) is a boy with an extraordinary gift: he can see and talk to the dead. Outcast by his town and most of his family, Norman tries his best not to be noticed. But one day Mr. Prenderghast (Goodman) finds him, and bestows the duty of protecting the town from the dreaded witch’s curse. When the curse is unleashed, it’s up to the misunderstood boy to save them all.

The Good:

  • Stop-Motion Animation Dominates All: The world’s love affair with stop-motion will likely reach new heights with this film. You can really see how much dedication, time and effort it took Laika to produce this quality product. It serves as yet another example of what their capable of. Between Coraline and ParaNorman, we can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.
  • 3D Can Actually Be Fun, if Used Properly: Most of the time, the third dimension in film is improperly used. To put it bluntly, it’s a lackluster gimmick that lines the big wigs pockets due to inflated prices. But stop motion animation, particularly in this instance, is the perfect platform of visual storytelling. And the 3D actually enhances the viewers’ experience. Every scene pops out in full force, and it’s not a strain to see. If you get the chance to watch this in 3D, do it.
  • Well-Crafted Story: We’re used to seeing this story in theaters. It’s the one where the unlikely hero steps up to the plate and saves the day. Some may consider it bland but we need more moral-filled tales like this for children. Movies shouldn’t just be a mental escape. They should express viewpoints on the world. Not only to talk to the masses, but to send out a message. Between the witty humor, surprising amount of terror (which may be slightly disturbing for really young children), ParaNorman does it all.
  • What A Score: Jon Brion’s score is a smooth mixture of suspense and fun. It also manages to be an homage to the horror soundtracks of the ’70s and ’80s. It’s rather difficult to maintain that balance but Mr. Brion pulls it off nicely.
  • Fine Acting and Direction Go Hand-in-Hand: Voice acting can be rather strenuous if you don’t have the right director(s) steering you. The combination of fine helmers and actors behind the mic make for a delightful blend of talent. It’s fun to get lost in a movie and realize at the end, that your favorite actors voiced the main characters.

The So-So:

  • Expansion: ParaNorman may have benefited from a slightly longer running time. Don’t get us wrong, we do like the short and sweet mentality that Laika has given us. But they could have stretched the film out a little more. They could have thrown in a couple additional nods to the horror classics. They already did (but we won’t spoil those for you). Either way, it’s not necessarily bad that the movie runs on the shorter side.

The Bad:

  • A Pinch Too Preachy: Earlier we mentioned how much we loved seeing a positive message being  conveyed through film. But ParaNorman goes a bit overboard between its second and third act. We realize our hero is going through one of the worse situations ever, but giving a speech about it is overkill. They could have pulled back on that.

Overall:

ParaNorman is a triumph for Laika on all fronts. It’s a family-friendly horror comedy that will leave a positive impression on everyone who sees it.

The Rating: 9/10

 

ParaNorman is out in theaters August 17.

 Photo Gallery:

Trailer:

Will you be seeing ParaNorman next week?