Director: Sam Fell & Chris Butler
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Casey Affleck, John Goodman, Leslie Mann, Tucker Albrizzi
Plot: A misunderstood boy, takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse.
Genre: Animation / Adventure / Comedy
Awards: Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Animated Feature
Rating: PG for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
This film was reviewed in the 3-D format.
“I wish I understood you.”
I have not seen a more accomplished animated feature this year than ParaNorman, which surely warrants at least an Oscar nomination come February 2013. This stop-motion animation takes the ubiquitous ‘zombie’ movie, and gives it a fresh spin, while at the same time, being reverent to the familiar, that is, the perverse and commentatory quality of the horror sub-genre that produced classics like Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), and contemporary escapist flicks like Zombieland (2009).
ParaNorman takes the premise so well-articulated in Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense (1999) – “I see dead people” – and fits it into the realm of animation and the zombie sub-genre, both of which don’t quite seem to agree with each other, as far as zombie movies are seen as representing some kind of unfathomable horror, and animation a safe haven for kids. But as far as ParaNorman is concerned, it is a marriage of surprising, tantalizing potential.
Directed by Sam Fell (Flushed Away, 2006; The Tale of Despereaux, 2008) and Chris Butler (in his feature debut), ParaNorman strives to defeat the notion that brain-chomping zombies are not for kids. By centering the narrative on Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee), an introverted boy with the ability to see dead people, there is a transference of the ideality of innocence to the seeming banality of the zombie sub-genre, not only making the latter more accessible to the young, but also stimulating adults and horror geeks in new ways.
The characters surrounding Norman are wonderfully realized, each uniquely playing stereotypical types (e.g. the fat boy, the rebel, the materialistic girl, the muscular guy) while providing sharp banter that provide laugh-out-loud moments. The filmmakers also pay tribute to the horror genre with a reference to Halloween (1978), among others, and more subtly, a homage to 1970s Italian zombie B-movies like Zombie (1979) via parts of its synth soundtrack by Jon Brion.
But what transforms ParaNorman into something more is its final act, breaking through all preconceived notions of a horror animated film, and becoming an allegory for fear, or more specifically, the wrath of fear. The visuals transcend from a traditional 3-D stop-motion picture into something significantly more fantastic (this in spite of its fantastical elements), and curiously, something more in line with abstract and symbolic 2-D drawings, somewhat reminding me of The Secret of Kells (2009).
ParaNorman will entertain and enthrall a wide range of audiences, and is very likely to be a shoo-in for a coveted spot in my Top 10 Films when the cinematic year of 2012 ends.
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