Sep 19 2012 by Ian Bunting, Airdrie & Coatbridge
ANIMATIONS with a ghoulish theme are inevitably compared with Tim Burton’s Gothic delight The Nightmare Before Christmas.
The latest to try and emulate Burton’s success is ParaNorman and, to a point, the film works well.
It’s not on a level with Burton’s standard-bearer but acts as a nice animated homage to the horror genre.
Young Norman Babcock – voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) – can speak to the dead and has to battle ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his home town of Blithe Hollow from a centuries-old curse.
Norman resonates with your’s truly as he sits watching horror movies at a young age.
And he earns extra Brownie points for having the theme from Halloween (my favourite horror movie) on his mobile phone.
But with his thick brows, hangdog expression and constant woe, Norman, ironically, makes for a lifeless lead character.
Co-directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell are obviously huge fans of horror.
And genre staples like the angry mob, re-animated severed limbs and zombies are deliciously delivered.
As a horror movie die-hard, I enjoyed the film but I’m not sure what Butler and Fell’s target audience is.
I don’t know what children will make of Norman’s battle with a lifeless corpse over a book, a teddy bear used as a firebomb and one character remarking that a location has a “total slasher movie vibe”.
The ‘kids battling supernatural forces’ is reminiscent of live action fare like eighties’ cult classics The Goonies and The Monster Squad and last year’s Super 8.
Butler makes his big-screen writing bow on the script and takes too long to get things going.
WOutside of a love letter to horror, the other prevailing story themes are a fear of what’s different and the plight of the outsider.
So it’s all a bit downbeat for your average ankle-biter.
The voice cast is a nice mix of hip young things – Anna Kendrick (Courtney), Casey Affleck (Mitch) and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Alvin) – and older comedic heads like John Goodman (Mr Prenderghast), Mrs Judd Apatow, aka Leslie Mann (Sandra) and Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Jeff Garlin (Perry).
Affleck’s dumb jock Mitch gets a surprising coda and Mintz-Plasse’s bully is different from the nerdish, quirky characters he usually plays.
There are some good laughs provided by Norman’s friend Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) and his surprisingly mature for his age views.
The animating stage of production lasted almost two years and the work was worth the extra time as the stop motion animation is of a high, old-fashioned type standard, with the odd-shaped characters adding to the offbeat, darker world.
ParaNorman isn’t perfect but has enough scares and laughs to keep you going – at least until the master Burton returns with pet 3D stop motion project Frankenweenie next month.
Rating – 6 out of 10.