Nowhere Near Normal
RATED: ★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5 buckets | Matinee or DVD
Rated: PG Scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language
Release Date: August 17, 2012
Runtime: 1 hour 36 minutes
Director: Chris Butler, Sam Fell
Writers: Chris Butler
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Tempestt Bledsoe, John Goodman
SYNOPSIS: Norman has a strange gift, he can talk to the dead. Even though he is bullied and misunderstood, Norman digs deep to take on ghosts, zombies, and the town's grown-ups to protect his town from an ancient witch's curse.
REVIEW: Director Chris Butler, art department artist on Corpse Bride and supervisor onCoraline, is joined by co-director Sam Fell, writer and director of Flushed Away, in a stop-action action adventure tale on a subject that is regaining in popularity in the last few years - zombies! Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee, Let Me In) is the same as every other kid in town. He goes to school, takes out the trash, annoys his sister - and speaks to the dead! The subject of ridicule from the other kids and adults in town because of his perchance to speak to no one they can see, Norman is shunned, talked about behind his back, and called a freak. Even his father is afraid for what people may think of his son and what Norman is capable of. Although the townsfolk consider Norman strange, they do revel in the legend that a woman was executed as a witch hundreds of years ago by a judge and six of her peers. Before her execution, she set a curse on the seven who sentenced her to death, vowing that they would come back from the dead on the eve of the date of her death. When a strange hermit uncle tries to tell Norman that the curse is true and that Norman is the only one that can stop her and the undead that will rise, Norman realizes that he must try to stop the curse from coming to light. Paired off with new chubby friend Neal (Tucker Albrizzi, Spooky Buddies), Norman heads off to stop the curse, Norman must contend with his annoying sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick, 50/50), a school bully named Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, How to Train Your Dragon), a dumb jock named Mitch (Casey Affleck, Tower Heist), an angry mob of adults, relentless zombies, and a powerful witch spirit that cannot be reasoned with.
Sam Fell and Chris Butler create a detailed world in ParaNorman that seems to have become a lost art. Except for a myriad of Tim Burton stop-motion movies, most studios seemed to have moved to a more full-CGI production of animation. ParaNorman is fresh and cool, at times tricking the brain that the film is CGI like the rest. But the few stuttering, tick-ticky movements in the film make you realize just how good and how much pain-staking work went into it. Add in great CGI effects on top of the stop-motion photography makes for a classic silly fright fest.
Most likely returning to their roots, Butler and Fell start the film with a schlocky tribute to bad 70s horror films everywhere. Norman eats up - no pun intended - all thing zombie and undead, from local late night shockers to a room filled with zombie memorabilia and posters. Why? Because he talks to the dead and has no fear of the unknown of death. It's the living that Norman has more trouble contending with. And with any zombie movie, its always the living you need to worry about for than the walking dead.
Although some of the voice talent is under age, they make the story pitch perfect. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Tucker Albrizzi play Norman and Neal perfectly. Anna Kendrick strikes all of the right snarky, disgusted cords as the older sister Courtney. Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Casey Affleck are nearly unrecognizable as Alvin and Mitch, their ability to meld their voice-over talents to the character in the best way. Leslie Mann (The Change-Up) as Norman's mom Sandra, Jeff Garlin (Wall-E) as dad Perry, and Elaine Stritch (Monster-in-Law) as Grandma just add richness to a already solid voice cast. Rounding out the talent are cameo characters Bernard Hill (Wimbleton) as the walking dead Judge, Tempestt Bledsoe (N-Secure) as Sheriff Hooper, Alex Borstein (Ted) as teacher and school play director Mrs. Henscher, and John Goodman (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) as the creepy uncle known as Mr. Prenderghast.
ParaNorman is an example of quality craftsmanship, attention to detail, use of multiple visual media, rolled up into a funny, scary and great story perfect for pre-teens, teens, and adults alike. The story starts out strong with its homage to the horror fests of the past, and ratchets up the story, humor and action steadily until the final climatic sequence. Fell and Bulter turn some of the horror zombie conventions on its dismembered head, while keeping great classic elements in place. The 3D doesn't employ the obvious 'in your face' techniques, but adds an additional level of richness to the visuals.
ParaNorman is the tip of the fall season spear of horror films in all of its forms. Funny and filled with spills and silly chills, ParaNorman will be appealing to a wide audience. Some of the characters may be undead, but with Norman at the center of the story, the film definitely has heart.
Check out all of the most recent movie reviews @ www.HotButterReviews.com.