ParaNorman is witty and loves to make reference to horror with humour. The stop-motion animated feature appeals in its own manner while attempting to instill a message across its audience about certain psychological revelations about ourselves pertaining to fear and its subsequent reaction towards it. With a visually enticing finale that speaks of imagination, this is one of the better animated features of the year.
The new 3D stop-motion comedy thriller from animation company LAIKA, reteaming the company with Focus Features after the groundbreaking Academy Award-nominated "Coraline." "ParaNorman" is, following "Coraline," the company's second stop-motion animated feature to be made in 3D. In "ParaNorman," a small town comes under siege by zombies. Who can it call? Only misunderstood local boy Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is able to speak with the dead. In addition to the zombies, he'll have to take on ghosts, witches and, worst, of all, grown-ups, to save his town from a centuries-old curse. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.
It's not often where one views stop-motion animated feature films these days, with the influx of CG animated productions made popular by entities such as Pixar Animated Studios and DreamWorks Animation. Thus it renders a different experience where smooth motion frame rate doesn't play a large role towards visual narration. One such filmmaker who has practiced stop-motion relatively often and well, is Tim Burton.
Burton is not involved here, but one cannot help but feel slight impressions of his signature in ParaNorman. Possibly due to the presence of co-Director and Writer Chris Butler, who might have drawn influences as the Storyboard Artist of Burton's Corpse Bride. Despite so, ParaNorman is distinctly different from a Tim Burton production in some ways.
One of the highly noticed characteristics of the animated feature is its subtle style of storytelling. As discussed earlier on the key difference between stop-motion and CG, the lack of smooth frame rates lead to little or no physical comedy and thus opts for realism as it pushes the production nearer to a work of cinema over a cartoon.
With this lack of physical comedy, it may evade the focus of those who are more accustomed to CG animated feature works as it comes without the dramatic blatant factor of entertainment. But for those who are in it for some interest storytelling that allows the character interaction to entertain and entice, this will be rewarding.
Norman is a gifted boy who has a conflict in managing public relations of his special abilities to the rest of the community. He is extraordinary, but he has no issues with it. Rather, the people around him do as he is seen as a "weirdo" being different from others. This leads to a main theme on bullying but the filmmakers do not conveniently rally around Norman.
ParaNorman attempts to evaluate and explain the rationale behind the act of bullying in society. While it could be derived from a sense of righteousness and authority over certain individuals, in this case it is seen as a product of induced fear of the unknown.
People do not understand Norman's abilities and thus mistakenly brand it as a negative vibe with a high degree of assumed subjectivity. This is also applied to the section of walking undead that rose from their graves later on, but shall not enter into details in view of potential spoilers.
With a good storytelling intention of thematic deliverables on bullying and addressing one's fear, ParaNorman makes a good animated feature for the adults to savour as it pays certain tributes to the 80s (starting from its "old-school" opening sequence to horror classics such as Friday the 13th) with references as well. While appearing to be a horror genre at first impression, one may (or may not) be pleased to expect a surprise.