You may not have heard much about this stop-motion animation, as it doesn’t have an A-list voice cast, but don’t let that put you off going to see a truly imaginative and at times truly scary movie for kids of all ages.
Our hero is Norman, an 11-year-old who sees ‘people’. Norman is cursed with the ability to see the dead, including his granny with whom he has long conversations while sitting on the sofa. Not surprisingly, Norman’s special gift makes him a real outsider at school, where he is the target for the school bully, while at home he’s either being got at by his dad or his teenage sister.
As in all the best ‘loser kid’ movies, the only person who does befriend Norman is the fatty in his class, who doesn’t seem to mind Norman’s unusual talent. But when Norman’s estranged uncle explains he too can communicate with the dead and that Norman must keep up the long family tradition of saving his town from a witch’s curse, things get a little too spooky even for Norman. With his uncle’s untimely demise Norman must step up to the plate, but he finds himself unable to banish the witch and with a gang of zombies about to descend on the town, he must use his special skills to win the day.
The film has an unique look all its own but what makes it so memorable is the mature way it handles its themes of being an outsider, bullying and also isolation. There are one or two remarkable scenes, the funniest being when Norman has to wrest a book out of his dead uncle’s hands. However, it is the finale that really impresses (and which may prove to be far too scary for younger children) where Norman must confront the witch, a young girl condemned to death for witchcraft and now Carrie-like in her fury and vindictiveness.
As she rages at Norman the imagery becomes jagged and inflammable, like one huge howl of anguish. It’s not what you expect from what is ostensibly a children’s movie, but ParaNorman constantly defies expectations, which is why it’s such a satisfying film experience.