If there's anything that could be construed as an "entry-level" horror movie aimed at older kids, then Paranorman is it. It's a clever take on teenage disaffection and a sly metaphor of bullying transplanted into the scaffolding of a classic exploitation horror movie, as high-school misfit Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) finds the exact gift that makes him a shunned figure of fun is the trump card that may save his sleepy hometown of Blithe Hollow from falling prey to a centenary witch's curse: his ability to see and talk to dead people. In Chris Butler's layered script, though, there's definitely a lot more than meets the eye going on, as nothing is ever quite what it seems behind the savvily-used horror film stock characters (dumb jock, bimbo blonde, party guy, outcast geek).

     One look at the endearingly skewed, jagged edges of the stop-motion universe engagingly hand-crafted by Laika Studios' crew makes you aware there is nothing rushed or half-measured in this film. Even though there's a strong whiff of Tim Burton-Henry Selick The Nightmare Before Christmas pop-gothic trademarks here (and remember Mr. Selick directed Laika's previous stop-motion entry Coraline), there's also a more biting satirical eye, with many jabs at American culture and a sense of forlorn melancholy that give the film quite an unusual tone and can be attributed to co-directors Sam Fell and Mr. Butler's British sensibilities.

     It's very refreshing as well to see a film that does not mollycoddle its younger viewers but instead treats them like individuals; Paranorman does not dial down its scariness at all for the sake of mere ratings, and knows that it's much healthier to speak at kids rather than down at them (it might therefore not be such a good idea to take younger kids to see this). As for the grown-ups, if they're genre fans then they're in for a lovely treat: a film that plays affectionately with all the trademarks but also knows how and when to skewer them without ever condescending either to kids or adults. Paranorman is its smart own man, just like its hero.

Voice cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Jodelle Ferland, John Goodman

Directors: Sam Fell, Chris Butler
Screenplay: Mr. Butler
Cinematography: Tristan Oliver (colour, digital intermediate by Technicolor, prints by Deluxe, widescreen)
Music: Jon Brion
Designer: Nelson Lowry
Costumes: Deborah Cook
Editor: Christopher Murrie
Visual effects: Brian van't Hul
Animation supervisor: Brad Schiff
Character design: Heidi Smith
Producers: Arianne Sutner, Travis Knight  (Laika Inc.)
USA, 2012, 93 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 1 (Lisbon), September 7th 2012


Popular Posts