PARANORMAN Review - A Spook Fest of Fun From LAIKA Productions and Focus Features

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PARANORMAN, from Focus Features films and LAIKA Productions, brings to the screen a spooky festival of fun and hi-jinks in this ghoulish animated action adventure.

Directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler, PARANORMAN is produced by Travis Knight who is also the lead animator and Arianne Sutner. Chris Butler is credited with writing the PARANORMAN screenplay.

PARANORMAN tells the story of an extraordinary child, Norman Babcock, voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee, who has a special gift that allows him to see and hear spirits of the dead. His gift is well known and ridiculed by the townspeople of Blithe Hallow, a quaint superstitious community, surrounded by ancient witch burial grounds.

As most children at his age, Norman, has an obsession, and his bedroom is homage to his love affair with Zombies! He loves Zombies! His parents, every year, must have scoured to find every zombie themed children’s accessory from toys and slippers to alarm clock and electric toothbrush.  Norman is the Zombie king!

Norman’s typical day centers around avoiding almost everyone, including his older sister Courtney voiced by Anna Kendrick, the school bully, Alvin, voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and his parents, Sandra Babcock voiced by Leslie Mann and Perry Babcock voiced by Jeff Garlin who discourage him, as they don’t understand, from talking to his now deceased grandmother voiced by the great Elaine Stritch. The town eccentric and, as fate would have it, weird family uncle, Mr. Prenderghast is voiced by John Goodman.

His only friend, Neil, voiced by Tucker Albrizzi, has more than a few adolescent issues of his own, becomes Norman’s staunchest defender and confident.  The cast is rounded out by Neil’s older brother Mitch voiced by Casey Affleck and Tempest Bledsoe who voices Sherriff Hopper. Jodelle Ferland voices Aggie Prenderghast.

The dialogue, throughout PARANORMAN is sharp, and between the children, is very cute and in reality some of my favorite scenes are the interaction between Norman and his friend, Neil. The banter between the two boys is genuine, real and representative of their age.

Not to say that the dialogue loses its flair or fun with the other characters, Chris Butler has captured the exact nuances, from teenage girls, teenage boys and their love affair with cars, to more serious topics of intolerance and bullying.

What culminates is a whirlwind Scooby-doo style escape, with police and townspeople in tow, zombies up and about and finally acceptance of the unusual.

PARANORMAN is presented in stop motion, stereoscopic animation and according to Travis Knight, LAIKA CEO, “Stop motion is a very simple process, but to do it well is one of the hardest things to achieve. Every other form of animation is iterative, but stop motion is progressive you start at one place and end in another.”

PARANORMAN Director Chris Butler added, “With this movie, LAIKA has stepped further outside the realm of what you would think of as traditional stop motion animation. Yet one of the reasons to do this as stop motion in the first place was because of the tradition established by Ray Harryhausen years ago, he had his monsters and we have our Zombies.”

PARANORMAN is a spook fest of fun! Campy kids horror in 3-D!

PARANORMAN is now playing nationwide. Check your local listings for show times.

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