ParaNorman tips its hat to classic horror flicks
Featuring the voices of Anna Kendrick, John Goodman, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. Rated PG. Opens Friday, August 17, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
From the producers of Coraline comes an even more rewarding take on childhood in the creepy zone. The kid in the title ParaNorman, voiced by Australian-born Kodi Smit-McPhee, doesn’t necessarily want to commune with ghosts and demons—he just can, that’s all. They mostly make small talk like everyone else, it seems, although this talent has furthered the relationship with his late grandmother (Elaine Stritch), who likes to watch old zombie movies with him on TV.
Norman’s differentness gets him hassled by his dad (Jeff Garlin) and branded a misfit in a small New England town most famous for burning witches. One particular incident, exactly 300 years earlier, has left the village with a tourist hook and a long-standing curse. Warned by an eccentric uncle (John Goodman) who shares his “gift”, Norman can see what’s coming, which could involve actual zombies and fire on a bigger scale.
Of course, no one will believe the boy who cries “spook”, so our Eraserheaded hero must try to save the town with an unlikely posse, including his shallow sister (Anna Kendrick), a sweet-tempered fat kid (Tucker Albrizzi), and the kid’s lunk-headed big bro (Casey Affleck), plus the school bully (McLovin himself, Christopher Mintz-Plasse).
The film’s main pull isn’t story—which spoofs mob mentality and may be too intense for wee ones—but style. Working with codirector Sam Fell, Brit writer-director Chris Butler opts for the unexpected at almost every turn. This starts with Jon Brion’s genuinely off-Hollywood score and continues into the script, which avoids the usual pop-culture references while alluding to classic horror flicks of the ’30s and ’50s. The biggest attraction, though, is some of the most exciting stop-motion cartooning ever attempted. Believe me, these are some dead people you really want to see.
Watch the trailer for ParaNorman.