I don’t think I’m cynical or jaded when it comes to viewing a movie.
I can still lose myself in characters and stories and worlds, it just seems that lately a lot of the films I’ve seen in theaters hold no real surprises for me, nor do they engage me as much as I wish they would.
So I was awesomely amazed, and supremely satisfied by ParaNorman.
This film not only has a sense of fun and wonder about it, it has an important message (that doesn’t beat you over the head in its delivery), and had some of the best laugh out loud moments I’ve seen in a movie in the theater this yearn terms of dialogue and sight gags; and where some animated films’ sight gags are momentarily funny, these ones are gonna last because they are paying homage to the films that inspired it.
I was already intrigued when I knew that this was the same studio that brought us Coraline, and it was top-motion animation. It was written and co-directed by Chris Butler, who also served in the Art Department of Coraline. Sam Fell, the director of the enjoyable Flushed Away, serves as the film’s other director.
And I have to say I love stop-motion animation, and always get a kick out of it, so I was delighted when Sue and I got passes to a pre-screening. Which featured a post film Q&A with both Fell and Butler!
This is a horror/zombie movie for the family, and the in-jokes are plentiful, and the script is sharp, tight, and filled with laughs.
Young Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee), is a bit of a social outcast, misunderstood by his family, called a freak by his schoolmates, all because he can see and speak with ghosts. Something that will always get you in trouble.
The town is getting ready for the anniversary of the hanging of a town witch, who had laid a curse on those who killed her to become the living dead! And it seems Norman may be the only one who can save the town.
Both Sue and I went into the film thinking we’d enjoy it, think it was cute and that there would be stuff for the grown-ups and the kids to keep everyone entertained. This film was AWESOME!
Sue and I laughed so hard, there were so many homages, sight gags, lines, and background bits that I know I’m going to have to see them again. There were nods to Shaun of the Dead, Halloween, Friday the 13th, classic Twilight Zone, Scooby-Doo, and The X-Files (or at least something that made me think it was an homage to the Files, and if I thought it was, I will call it such), and those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head! There’s also a number of moments when the film’s score seems to slip into homage mode as well, Sue and I both commented, after the film, how there were times when the music sounded like a John Carpenter movie.
The stop-motion and computer-generated images on the character work was fantastic, with almost all the motion done by hand, and the facial features were augmented by CG. Each character has their own distinctive look and personality, and 5 minutes into the film, you almost forget you’re watching an animated film, and are totally engaged with the story (some people got so involved, that they jumped during a very minor scare). The character designs are a lot of fun, my favorite would have to be for the witch in the final act of the film, during her confrontation with Norman.
There didn’t seem to be a single moment in this film that didn’t work, it was a true joy to watch, it also features some great voice acting by the likes of Anna Kendrick, John Goodman, Leslie Mann, Casey Affleck (who has one of the best lines at the end of the film that actually caused our audience to applaude and cheer!), Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jeff Garlin and Bernard Hill.
If you grew up loving 80s Horror movies, or have come to love them, then you need to see this film. It’s a true delight, and wonderful to watch!
ParaNorman opens August 17th!