Release date: January 28th, 2013
Running time: 93 minutes
Director: Sam Fell, Chris Butler
Writers: Chris Butler, Arianne Sutner, Stephen Stone
Voice cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, John Goodman, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Many of us can remember back to a time in our childhoods when we talked to inanimate objects and people who weren’t really there. Imaginary friends, that’s what our parents called them, and I admit I had a few, and a couple of them still hang around today – but who’s to say that 100% of the time these are really imaginary friends and not something that’s real and that others simply just can’t see.
This must’ve been a fun idea for the filmmakers to come up, and considering the films like Coraline (2009) and Corpse Bride (2005) that co-director and co-writer Chris Butler has been involved it, ParaNorman couldn’t have been in better hands.
Set in the small New England town of Blithe Hollow, the story introduces us to a boy named Norman Babcock (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) who’s able to speak with the dead. As the film opens we see him chatting with his grandmother as they watch a horror movie, it’s only after a few minutes that we realise his grandmother is actually dead and his family thinks he’s a bit of a nut. At school it’s no different, he’s endlessly teased and no one really believes little Norman is able to communicate with folks who’ve passed on.
His only real living friend is Neil Downe (Tucker Albrizzi), he’s a little overweight but an extremely cheerful fellow who’s happy to hang around with Norman, especially as he thinks he can talk to his recently dead pet dog.
Back at school, rehearsals have started for a play commemorating the town’s witch execution from 300 years ago but Norman’s performance is interrupted by a vision of him being hunted by the townspeople for his gift. Later that day, Norman’s uncle and local crazy man, Mr. Prenderghast (John Goodman), tells him that his vision is a sign of things to come and that he has to perform a ritual to protect the town, but he refuses to take him seriously. It’s only after his death when he visits him again that Norman realises the brevity of the situation and sets off to do what his uncle said.
With the town’s ancestors rising from the dead after being cursed by a witch all those years ago, Norman, along with his older sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick), Neil, his older brother Mitch (Casey Affleck) and a school bully called Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), try to keep the dead at bay while also fighting off the town’s accusations of witchcraft on account of him being to talk to the dead. The only thing that might bring it all to a peaceful end is confronting the witch whom all this began with.
ParaNorman certainly comes loaded with a lot of ideas to keep kids and adults entertained and issues for them to talk about afterwards, but at times I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, especially with the ritual Norman has to perform. But putting that aside, there are some funny moments and Neil brings a lot of humour the film with lines like “Don’t make throw this humus, it’s spicy!”
The stop motion animation is beautifully captured and the special effects help a lot with bringing the story to life. Together with the bold colours and soundtrack, it makes ParaNorman a great family film to see – and with Halloween peeking around the corner already, who knows who else might turn up to see this ghoulish delight?!
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .