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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
PG
Cast
Casey Affleck
Kodi Smit-McPhee
Leslie Mann
John Goodman
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Jodelle Ferland.
Directors
Sam Fell
Chris Butler.
Screenwriters
Chris Butler.
Running Time
92 minutes

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ParaNorman
Next up: ClareVoyant


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Plot
Blithe Hollow, New England. Young Norman Babcock (Smit-McPhee) is shunned and bullied because he can see ghosts. However, it seems he’s the only person who can save the town when the spirit of a witch hanged 300 years ago raises her Puritan accusers as rampaging zombies.


Review
ParaNorman
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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.


Verdict
Ingenious and wonderfully detailed, though better in its imaginative horror than its slightly too-broad comic knockabout. It’s not quite on the level of Coraline, but it’s proper summer fun with some dark delights.


Reviewed by Kim Newman


Related Reviews
Books
Art And Making Of ParaNorman, The
 
Sounds
Paranorman
 

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for ParaNorman
Empire Star Rating

Para-not normal!

Awesome film-loved the voice talent and the winks to horror films-(better than Frankenweenie which has only a good last half hour)-if I take anything from this film its the line-'My Boobs!' ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by themanfromunkle at 12:45, 22 February 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

^^ Well mainly because everybody thinks of Burton the minute you mention 'Nightmare'. Selick directed yes but its Burton's baby all the way technically, actually feel sorry for Selick because of the reasons you pointed out. ... More

Posted by Phubbs at 04:39, 25 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Dr Lenera I just don't think homosexuality belongs in a 'U. film. I have nothing against homosexuality btw. on't get me wrong: I'm not advocating changing ane certificate (the reference as is in manfectly acceptable to me. ... More

Posted by homersimpson_esq at 21:19, 24 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Phubbs L: homersimpson_esq L: Phubbs ParaNorman Finally we get another 'Nightmare Before Christmas' type flick! Been waiting for this and yet amazingly it isn't Tim Burton behind the camera or script. Can't deny that's the first thought that entered my head...'this is a Tim Burton film...surely!'. im Burton wasn't behind the camera for Nightmare Before Christmas, either... It was Henry Selick. Inevitably somebody has to bring this up every time Nightmare Before Christma... More

Posted by homersimpson_esq at 21:16, 24 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: homersimpson_esq L: Dr Lenera The message of tolerance is a very worthwhile one, though there has already been much fuss made about a revelation in the final scene about one character being gay; I don't have a problem with it considering it is in a film which is rated 'PG', which stand for 'Parental Guidance'. had been in a 'U' film then I probably would be one of those who take issue with itt's not. hy? I think that sort of indicates the whole tolerance thing. My son has a fri... More

Posted by Dr Lenera at 21:13, 24 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Phubbs ParaNorman Finally we get another 'Nightmare Before Christmas' type flick! Been waiting for this and yet amazingly it isn't Tim Burton behind the camera or script. Can't deny that's the first thought that entered my head...'this is a Tim Burton film...surely!'. im Burton wasn't behind the camera for Nightmare Before Christmas, either... It was Henry Selick. Inevitably somebody has to bring this up every time Nightmare Before Christmas is mentioned because everybody as... More

Posted by Phubbs at 17:25, 24 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: ParaNorman

L: Phubbs The story does turns out to be quite sweet in the end I might add, the finale is quite moving and in a way detracts from what has gone before really. Almost a total swing in mood from horror comedy to nice fairytale bookend. ARANORMAN SPOILERS But it worked so well-and the central message of tolerance and not fearing those who are different to you would have been for naught if the witch was defeated by an action sequence. The fact that the curse is lifted not by a l... More

Posted by Rebel scum at 17:24, 24 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Dr Lenera The message of tolerance is a very worthwhile one, though there has already been much fuss made about a revelation in the final scene about one character being gay; I don't have a problem with it considering it is in a film which is rated 'PG', which stand for 'Parental Guidance'. had been in a 'U' film then I probably would be one of those who take issue with itt's not. hy? I think that sort of indicates the whole tolerance thing. My son has a friend in his year with two m... More

Posted by homersimpson_esq at 07:34, 24 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: ParaNorman

ParaNorman Finally we get another 'Nightmare Before Christmas' type flick! Been waiting for this and yet amazingly it isn't Tim Burton behind the camera or script. Can't deny that's the first thought that entered my head...'this is a Tim Burton film...surely!'. But no this isn't, its completely Burton free and what's more its pretty darn good. Visuals up first of course, what can I say, they look flippin great!. A blend of clay-mation with a hint of CGI in places but in that nice old ... More

Posted by Phubbs at 05:41, 24 September 2012 | Report This Post


It'll probably leave its two competitors in the dust...

Paranorman is more charming than any animation I've seen since The Pirates, and they both succeed by making the characters likeable without laying on the schmaltz, and funny without relying on fart jokes. There are plenty of verbal and visual easter-eggs for grown-up fans of the horror genre. I'm aware that the reasons I thought it was great are the same things that could disappoint the Burtonites. I'd recommend seeing it at the cinema just so you can witness all the model-work in its glor... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMightyBlackout at 21:27, 21 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Really enjoyed this even though it was a weekday morning showing was surprised there was only myself & 1 other in the screening, I really enjoyed the claymation & think this is what Pirates could've been if they hadn't wimped on slightly more adult humor. On the whole an enjoyable & for once ORIGINAL! film one for the family though from ages 7 up only I'd say. 8/10 ... More

Posted by Wild about Wilder at 10:32, 20 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE:

Norman is an outsider in his home town of Blithe Hollow and especially at school. He has one great gift; an ability to see and talk to the dead, but nobody believes his ability is real until he makes friends with Neil, a similarly bullied boy but in his case mostly because of his weight. During a rehearsal for a school play commemorating the time when, 300 years ago, the town executed a witch, Norman has a harrowing vision of the town’s past and being pursued as a witch. Afterwards, the... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 12:17, 18 September 2012 | Report This Post


Have to disagree with the reviewer on this. I thought it was a great film. It has plenty of funny moments that keep it ticking along. The animation is great. The witches story has a surprising emotional depth that you don't get with a lot of kids movies and there are some modern twists that I think are very brave. There are loads of subtle horror movie references. I don't like to critique the review itself, but it doesn't really explain the rating very well at all. To give this just 3 stars is... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by keaneye at 19:02, 11 September 2012 | Report This Post


Might sound bold, but I found it as adorable, funny and sophisticated as Coraline. I absolutely loved it. Fantastic, in my opinion! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 04:54, 05 September 2012 | Report This Post


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