The key to many successful animated films and TV shows is that they are designed with adults and children in mind. The same is the case with ParaNorman, which has a little something for horror fans of any age and will be especially entertaining for the young at heart.
ParaNorman follows Norman, a young boy who is able to see and communicate with the dead. Sadly, no one believes him and he's the outcast of his town and family. Only Norman can save his town when a witch's curse brings the dead back to life, but he'll need the help of his friends, family, and unlikely allies if he wants to survive against the zombies that are chasing him.
Laika certainly had the right plan going into this. The retro opening and horror movie references set the tone nicely, and you know from the start that this isn't your average kids movie. ParaNorman has a great blend of horror and comedy that really works throughout the entire movie. There are plenty of jokes that are targeted specifically to adults and horror fans, and keep an eye out for a number of horror-related Easter eggs throughout the film.
Aside from Norman, we are introduced to an interesting mix of characters, including Norman's sister, a new best friend, and the school bully. The voice cast includes Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, and Elaine Stritch. Everyone does a great job of bringing their characters to life and their performances keep everything moving along at a nice pace.
The art style and stop-motion animation are top notch and, in a rare case, enhanced by the use of 3D. Stop-motion animation is rarely used for new animated films, but Laika continues to produce high-quality work, similar to their efforts on Coraline. The process is challenging to say the least, and the act of creating a full-length stop-motion film like this is an impressive feat on its own.
While I enjoyed the animation, humor, and characters, I felt that the story was a bit too basic and didn't always connect the dots in a way that felt natural. I mentioned earlier that successful animated films keep an adult and child audience in mind. When it comes to ParaNorman's story, though, it's a mixed bag. After a decent setup in the first act, it feels like the big events taking place in the movie are hastily connected together. This movie should play very well with horror fans of any age, but you may wonder why the creative team decided to take it easy on the zombies and other horror elements later in the film.
Despite some minor criticisms, ParaNorman is a great movie to take your kids to and introduce them to the world of zombies, witches, and ghosts. For those without kids, you should still get a kick out of a zombie movie where a young horror fan is the one who ends up saving the day.
Film Score: 3.5/5
Interested in learning more about ParaNorman? Catch up on our coverage of ParaNorman with the following article links below. I've also included a Night of the Living Dead promo from ParaNorman that is not in the film, along with the trailer.