Blithe Hollow, New England. Young Norman Babcock (Smit-McPhee) is shunned and bullied because he can see ghosts. However, it seems hes the only person who can save the town when the spirit of a witch hanged 300 years ago raises her Puritan accusers as
This must be the first kid-friendly stop-motion 3D picture to include an homage to the famous image from the video nasty Cannibal Apocalypse as a shotgun blast blows a hole clear through a zombie’s torso. Directed by Sam Fell, of Flushed Away, and screenwriter Chris Butler, who worked on Henry Selick’s Coraline, ParaNorman is the sort of film grown-ups who don’t understand what kids like think is too much for them. It opens with 1970s-style grindhouse brain-eating and keeps throwing in gross-out horror comedy gags like an all-ages version of a Sam Raimi movie.
Lacking the focused story of Coraline, this is an entertaining jumble of themes — mostly familiar, but nevertheless enthusiastically trotted out. Brush-haired little Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee), with his odd dual handicap of ‘I see dead people’ psychic ability and nerdy interest in zombie movies, is yet another outsider who gets to show he’s a better person than his tormentors. He wins over parents, adult authority figures and even bullies as he heroically struggles to save a town which hasn’t treated him any better than it did the ticked-off witch 300 years earlier. In fact, Norman is a little on the bland side, upstaged by his fat sidekick Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), shallow sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick), Neil’s lunk brother (Casey Affleck) and spotty bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). It’s wearing that all the supporting characters are presented as so stupid that an 11 year-old can outsmart them, though the town’s token smart girl is unfairly excluded from the adventure.
American churches given to picketing movies will find this especially subversive, since it argues that Puritans are evil and witches are cool — a nice moment has the zombified Puritans shocked at an image which affronts all their sensibilities, a sexy witch holding a cocktail advertising a gambling den.
Ingenious and wonderfully detailed, though better in its imaginative horror than its slightly too-broad comic knockabout. Its not quite on the level of Coraline, but its proper summer fun with some dark delights.