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Paranorman – 6

Director – Chris Butler, Sam Fell

Cast – Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, John Goodman

Release Year – 2012

Reviewed by John of the Dead

2012 was a fair year for animated horror films, with Frankenweenie and Paranorman giving us notable experiences in a horror sub-genre that has to try pretty hard to entertain us without gore or kills. After seeing Frankenweenie I decided to give Paranorman a chance, and while it fails to entertain like Tim Burton’s animated experience it still provides a mostly experience. The story is a pretty serious one for an animated flick and I personally was not very fond of this piece, but nonetheless it is put together pretty well and just might satisfy its audience in the end.

In the quiet town of Blithe Hollow, Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a young boy with a unique ability – he can speak to the dead. With only his new friend, Neil, believing in Norman’s ability, he often finds himself alone and excommunicated from his peers. When his uncle tells him of an important ritual he must take up to protect the town from a curse cast by a witch it condemned centuries ago, Norman and a few unexpected companions must take on the witch’s vengeance and save the town from the living dead.

The story comes written by Chris Butler, a first-time writer with previous work as a storyboard artist for Corpse Bride and Coraline. Things start off well, setting up the characters and eventually giving us comical horror as we watch Norman to deal with speaking to the dead and explaining to his family why it looks like he is talking to himself. When the horror hits it comes with the usual animated film antics, with an angry antagonist that seems to lack the power to physically hurt someone. This is not a bad thing, I am just letting you know not to expect anything different. While the overall story is not a poor one it was one that I just could not find much interest in. The writing execution of Norman was bland and he was portrayed to be an equally uninteresting kid despite the ability to talk to ghosts. His dialogue was poorly written and I was left wondering how even children were able to sit through the film with such a boring lead, and it was because of this that the film did not achieve a higher rating.

The direction from Chris Butler and Sam Fell (The Tale of Despereaux and Flushed Away) was mostly positive and I felt that they give the film a cool claymation-esque look. The sets created were proper and the atmosphere provided was equally good, but there were few other positives. With Norman being the center of the film’s attention you would assume that he would be executed properly, but I believe the directors failed when it came to his character. I found him very unlikable and not the least bit interesting, and while that stemmed from the story and his dialogue it seemed to have carried on to the direction of his character. He lacks emotion and very rarely did he seem to be anything like a child his age. Obviously he is “different” than the others, but even then he should have qualities we can related to and he does not. This really came as a surprise to me given he was voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee, the promising young actor who starred in Let Me In and The Road.  The horror wasn’t bad and the look of the zombies and antagonists was pretty cool, but in the end I did not find enough joy in this piece to leave with a smile like I did with Frankenweenie.

Overall, Paranorman is a decent animated horror film that could have been better. The writing and directing execution make for a bland protagonist and ultimately it hinders the experience, keeping this from being the great experience I hoped it would be.

Rating: 6/10

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