DIRECTORS: Chris Butler and Sam Fell
VOICE CAST: Kodi Smith-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann, Christopher Minz-Plasse
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes
RATING:3 stars (out of 5)
GORGEOUSLY animated, this stop-motion feature is a contradiction in terms.
It deals with a decidedly adult theme, but mediated through a child protaganist. A very misunderstood little boy in a small little town is ostracised because he says he can speak to dead people.
It turns out that Norman (voice of Smith-McPhee) can really do it. Now he is the only one who can turn back the deadly ire of a long-dead witch, hellbent on punishing the townspeople of Blithe Hollow for burning her at the stake.
Bring on the crazy homeless guy who means it when he says it is the end of the world as we know it and the zombies creeping out of their graves. But no, things are not quite what they seem because directors Chris Butler (storyboard artist on ‘Coraline’) and Sam Fell (director of the even more gorgeously animated ‘Tales of Desperaux’) start playing around with the horror and comedy genres.
Even when you know exactly where the plot is going, they do it in such a visually stimulating way that it keeps you watching.
The first few images of the film call to mind every shlock horror film and Hammersmith poster you have ever seen, and the imagery references everything from ‘Dawn of the Dead’ to ‘Suspira’ and music of ‘Halloween’… and the list goes on.
Now that is a very adult thing – the way the film lovingly references the imagery of horror movies. Even the town name is a reference to two different ghost stories, Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit and Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow. If you are into that kind of filmic nod and a wink, there is plenty here that will keep you busy.
The film message of “being different is okay” is something aimed at children and it is quite sweetly handled – if the tweens manage to keep their eyes open through the very scary part.
Dealing with death, letting go and how fear makes adults do stupid things, these are all important lessons to learn. So, score one for the kids.
The way the film spoofs films like ‘The Breakfast Club’ (the silly geek, dumb cheerleader, clueless jock and brainy outcast have to find a way to survive the night) or the ‘Evil Dead’ (the town is, after all, attacked by zombies) is an adult thing though – most tweenies have never even heard of those films, or aren’t old enough to watch them.
So, maybe it is a family film – though not for the little ones. Several of the sequences are genuinely trying to scare you, so score one for the horror genre. But at the same time there are several in-jokes and a droll sense of humour aimed at poking fun at slapstick comedies.
The ending is a surprisingly cop-out sentimental one, scuppering all the good subversion that has gone before.
Hence, a contradiction that merits a second look, if only to appreciate the 3D animation.
If you liked… ‘Frankenweenie’ or ‘Coraline’… you will like this.
WIN! WIN! WIN!
Tonight is offering 5 lucky readers the chance to win a Paranorman prize. The prize consists of a kids’ Paranorman T-Shirt and cap, and a Puss in Boots DVD. To stand a chance of winning, all you have to do is answer this simple question:
Name the town Norman lives in?
Send your answer, along with your contact details, to [email protected] The competition closes on Wednesday, November 14, at midnight. Only the winners will be contacted.