See, those kids who talk to dead people aren’t so weird after all! Haley Joel Osment is jumping in the air somewhere right now.
The small New England town of Blithe Hollow comes under siege by the undead. Only a misunderstood local boy, Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who has the ability to speak with the dead, is able to prevent the destruction of his town from a centuries-old witch’s curse. He’ll also have to take on ghosts, witches, zombies and worst of all, the moronic grown-ups. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.
Maybe I was all alone in a boat by myself back in 2009, but I really just did not like Coraline. There was something about it that just didn’t work and I felt it was just too scary and serious to be considered a kids flick. This one follows in the same exact steps as that one except it has the one key ingredient that always makes these films work: the fat kid. More on that later, though. Let’s start with the positive things that came before he arrived.
The animation for this flick, is exactly what you would expect from the animation studio Laika. Even though I may have disliked a lot about Coraline, I still thought that they had plenty of eye-candy to help me get through, and that’s exactly what we have here but probably used a lot better in the terms of 3D. It was a really neat thing to see stop-motion animation done in a 3D way, and it added some real color and zaniness to this final product, as if it was one of the horror films that it was making fun of in the first place. Needless to say, the kids will love how much shit is constantly popping out at them (not literal shit, but you get my drift), but the parents will also be able to appreciate a 3D used right and almost not feel like their over-priced $13 dollar ticket will go to waste. Actually, if you add the kid’s ticket as well it’s going to be a lot more so it’s a good thing that it at least delivers or there’s going to be a loud of pissed-off parents.
Another element of this film that separates itself from Coraline, is that there is loads and loads of amounts of comedy to be had here, which really took me by surprise considering how much I actually laughed. There’s a lot of goofy sight-gags that you have to look closely to see and there’s a lot of jokes that only true horror movie fans will get, but what separates this film from all the other animated films that have come out in the last 2 years or so, is that is able to make almost any movie-goer laugh. Have a couple of kids? They got their fart jokes and slapstick. Got a bunch of grumpy adults? They have their sly humor and wit about a dark situation that somehow makes it lighter. Got a horror movie lover out there? They got the movie references. Have you average, movie-goer that just wants to laugh and have a good time? They got plenty of jokes that will work and make you laugh, as they did onto me. You’ll be surprised by how far this film goes with it’s comedy but it works, and instead of just dropping out pop-culture reference after pop-culture reference like we see in Shrek films, we get the type of comedy where goofy things happen, all for a reason. And that’s funny enough as it is.
Problem with a lot of this comedy is that it comes in a little too much. I get that the film wanted to always keep things light and humorous, even when it get dark and scary as hell, but they could have at least slowed down a bit and let some scenes just play out in a very serious matter. Sounds pretty strange that I would actually want a funny film to stop it’s humor for a bit and just be serious with us, but it gets to the point of where you can’t pay attention to what’s going on with this story and what’s on-screen because you’re constantly just waiting for another funny quip to come right through. Strange complaint, I know.
Another complaint about this film I had was that it take a bit too long to get where it exactly needed to go. With these films, you know exactly what’s going to happen from start to finish, which means that it better hurry it’s ass up by keeping us entertained. This film definitely keeps us entertained for the most part, but doesn’t really hurry it’s ass up either. The film just sort of just takes it’s time with it’s awfully predictable story, which doesn’t really work when you have something as conventional as this. Two very weird complaints, I know, but this is not necessarily the most normal film out there either and I think that’s all because of Norman himself.
Kodi Smit-McPhee seems like a great choice as Norman because the kid has always been type-cast as these weirdo-types and gives Norman a whole lot of boyish sympathy, that’s easy to fall for and stand behind; Anna Kendrick voices his older sister who is always bitching and trying to impress a hot dude around her; that hot dude I’m talking about is Casey Affleck as an older brother of somebody and shows he’s got great comedic timing with a weird, scratchy voice like his; and Christopher Mintz-Plasse proves he can be funny, but not as a nerd as the school bully here. Everybody else from this talented ensemble is fine, but when it comes right down to it, nobody stands in the way of the fat one.
I don’t know who this kid is and I don’t know if I have ever seen him ever before, but Tucker Albrizzi absolutely nails every line he has the token fat sidekick, Neil. Neil is such a great character right from the start because he’s fat, a nerd, and doesn’t get along with most kids, but still has a big heart and you can feel that from Albrizzi’s voice and just how they make this character look. Honestly, you cannot say that the picture of Neil in this movie just doesn’t want to make you pinch his cheeks or feed him some Cinna Buns. Every time this kid just about opens his mouth, it’s a piece of comedy that works and thank the lord for Albrizzi, because he makes everybody in this flick seem like a bunch of rookies, even though he’s only 13 years old. Kids got a bright future and I hope he keeps it going. Then again, I have never seen him before or if he can act well, but I know the kid’s got a great voice for animated characters that’s for damn sure.
Consensus: ParaNorman may not be the best animated flick all year, but is still a hell of a lot better than Coraline, the film that came before it with a playful sense of humor that can have anybody who sees this laugh, and a talented voice cast that milks all of the lines for all that they got.