Norman is not quite the average kid. With a special ability to see ghosts, there are few people who actually take him seriously. While he is ignored at home and harassed at school, there is one person who seems to be looking out for him. When Mr. Prenderghast, Norman’s uncle, realizes that Norman has the gift, he tries to warn him that the Witch’s Curse is coming and it is up to him to stop it. After being visited by Mr. Prenderghast’s ghost and told of a book, Norman goes on a journey to retrieve the book and stop the curse. While at the graves, he recites the book but it fails to change anything and the zombies of seven pilgrims rise from their graves. In a race to save the town, Norman teams up with his bully, strange best friend, self-absorbed sister and an absent-minded jock to find the witch’s grave and bring the curse to an end once and for all.
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee (Norman Babcock), Tucker Albrizzi (Neil), Anna Kendrick (Courtney Babcock), Casey Affleck (Mitch), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Alvin), Leslie Mann (Sandra Babcock), Jeff Garlin (Perry Babcock), Elaine Stritch (Grandma), Bernard Hill (The Judge), Jodelle Ferland (Aggie), Tempestt Bledsoe (Sheriff Hooper), Alex Borstein (Mrs. Henscher), John Goodman (Mr. Prenderghast)
The combination of the vocal work seems to play well to the story. Smit-McPhee is able to maintain a rather droll tone throughout the film, even in scenes with a lot of excitement (which helps to play up his character’s lack of confidence). Kendrick brings the self-absorbed elements out of the older sister, while Affleck really makes Mitch out to be an airhead. In total, the performances are quite strong for this quirky film.
Chris Butler’s and Sam Fell’s work is some of their best as they tell the story of a young boy trying to look for the courage to be who he is. Norman was an outcast and was very embarrassed by his inability to be taken seriously. His ghosts had become his friends, but no one believed in his abilities. It was not until is counted that people started to finally listen to him, but there was even resistance as evil was taking over the town. Realizing that he actually had something in common with the witch and that following Mr. Prenderghast’s instructions was only going to temporarily diffuse the chaos, he found the courage to finally stand up against his fear and use his gift to save the town and the spirit of the witch.
This film was rather interesting in the way that it touched upon some more adult themes while maintaining a more child-friendly atmosphere. While this is not uncommon for animated features now, one particular joke that stood out was at the end with the sexuality of Mitch’s character. With Courtney trying to get Mitch’s attention throughout the movie, it is not until after the chaos concludes that she learns that Mitch actually has a boyfriend. This can be viewed as either a cute, humorous surprise at the end or an odd placement of a social joke in a kid’s movie. While there are other good jokes throughout the film, it was easy for some to feel offended by commentary. Regardless, Butler and Fell did a great job with developing a unique story and good jokes.
Paranorman is a strong, unique animated feature that uses quirky to tell a creative story.
Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5