Movie Review: PARANORMAN

Norman of “ParaNorman”

Release date: August 17, 2012
Directed by: Chris Butler and Sam Fell
Written by: Chris Butler
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, John Goodman
Rating: PG; Running Time: 93 minutes

Norman’s got a lot riding on his underdeveloped, 11-year-old shoulders in ParaNorman, the second 3D stop-motion animated feature from Laika. Following 2009′s Coraline – a strong success with both the critics and the box office – it seemed that the stop-motion studio Laika, based in a suburb west of Portland, Oregon, was carving a highly unique niche for itself. But when Coraline‘s writer/director stop-motion whiz Henry Selick left the studio eight months after the film’s release (in October 2009), future projects seemed questionable … at least until May 2011, when Laika officially announced its plans for ParaNorman.

And speaking of the title character: Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) lives with his family in the small Massachusetts town of Blithe Hollow, which is about to commemorate the 300-year anniversary of the burning of the historic town witch. Norman’s a good-hearted, awkward tween who sports spiked hair and thick eyebrows that look to be molded out of chocolate licorice. But he’s a little odder than most, particularly since he’s more comfortable conversing with dead people than his family or his school mates. His abnormal paranormal Uncle Prenderghast (voiced by John Goodman) warns him that Blithe Hollow’s rumored witch’s curse is true… and that it will be up to Norman to bridge the communications between this world and the other, in the hopes that he can calm the witch, stop the curse and save the town. If only zombies could stay off the streets, Norman’s task would be a whole lot easier.

Like Coraline, ParaNorman is a PG-rated children’s fantasy/horror film. But unlike the former — which was based on Neil Gaiman’s blisteringly creative 2002 award-winning novella – this time around Laika chose to go with a screenplay written by in-house storyboard supervisor Chris Butler. Whether or not Mr. Butler proves himself to be an enduring talent, unfortunately this first feature ultimately disappoints.

[For Kimberly Gadette's full review and rating on doddle, please click here]

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