Dir. Chris Butler and Sam Fell
(2012, PG, 92 minutes)
I wouldn’t call ParaNorman a kids’ movie, per se; it has more decomposing flesh and dead children than you’d typically find. Parents would be advised not to exhibit this to their youngest progeny without careful consideration, but I don’t generally approach films from the perspective of their target audience; whether it’s primarily aimed at 8-year-olds or 80-year-olds, the only point of view I can report is my own, and while it may not be suitable for the youngest viewers, I highly recommend it to everyone else.
It’s a visually evocative stop-motion animated film, creating a superstitious small town with rich production design and visual effects that manifest the characters’ stirring storm of emotions. Telling the story of Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee), an outcast boy who sees dead people, it’s a zombie comedy with plenty of visual humor – much of it of the gallows variety – but it’s also unexpectedly moving in illustrating a cultural legacy of fear, mob-rule, and the persecution of difference. The more we learn about this town’s dreaded curse, the more we realize that there is something far scarier than witches or zombies: people.