In today’s film industry, there exists such a variety of genres: action, thriller, horror, musical, and the list could go on and on. But out of all of the genres that exist and seek to entertain, there is none perhaps like that of the animation genre. Kids know it, kids love it; but it’s not only the fact that kids love it that makes it so popular in today’s society. What makes it so popular is the fact that hidden within all of the innocence that children are entertained by is a bit of material that will go directly over the kids’ heads and slam the parents with unexpected laughs. That is what makes animation so beautiful; everyone can relate to it. But among the genre of animation are many subgenres, such as computer animation and regular animation. But the genre of animation that earns my utmost respect out of possibly all genres of film is Clay Animation, or “Claymation.” This process, often known as “Stop-motion Animation” is achieved by a group of people who build clay figures, take a photo, then move the figures to the next motion, take another picture, and so on and so forth. It has achieved major success in the past with films such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline, and now we have the latest addition to the library of Clay Animation films, Paranorman.
Paranorman follows Norman, voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In), a little boy who has a special ability that allows him to see and talk to the dead. Although he isn’t afraid of them as Haley Joel Osment was in The Sixth Sense, certain similarities are definitely present. Norman has accepted the fact that he can interact with the dead and he is fine with it, even though he does face ridicule at school and is known as the school “freak.” One day, Norman is told the Witch’s ghost is returning to seek revenge on her accusers, who are the walking dead… yes, zombies are in this movie, and it is up to Norman to save the day. With all that being said, it is safe to say that Paranorman is a terrifically engaging film that kids will enjoy along with their parents.
One of the biggest things about Paranorman is the choice of voice talents. There is Kodi Smit-McPhee, who made himself a little star in the fantastic vampire film Let Me In, as Norman, who does a fantastic job in his role. A few more are Anna Kendrick, who does a great job as Norman’s older sister; Casey Affleck, who does hilarious work as Neil’s older brother; Tucker Albrizzi, who is also hilarious as Neil, the fat kid who befriends Norman; and finally there is John Goodman thrown in there, all amounting to a vocal cast that is engagingly terrific.
However much can be said about the vocal talents, that times a million wouldn’t even cover how much should be said about the animation. Although I haven’t previously seen Coraline, I can say that I knew a little of what to expect just because of clips of it, but walking out of Paranorman, I was floored. How can any human being possibly accomplish something of this magnitude? The amount of time, care, and precision that goes into these Clay Animation movies is absolutely astonishing. Paranorman has some of the best visuals you can ask for in an animated movie. Everything from a ghost in the sky to a dark, dreary forest, Paranorman stumps. This movie, too, is truly scary. Although the trailers may have led audiences on to be a ghost movie, it really is a zombie movie. The filmmakers could have went in two directions with the zombies: they could have made them funny and family friendly or they could have made them scary. Somehow, they maintain a balance, but they lean more on the scary side, which works as an advantage. There are scenes in this visual treat fest that can legitimately scare children… and the parents. If you don’t give a crap about the storyline, (which, although nothing fresh, is still intriguing), you can’t possibly deny the technicality and beauty of the visuals.
Another aspect to address here is the humor and content. Paranorman has some of the raciest content and humor I have ever seen and heard in a PG rated film, and that makes it so much better as a film. The fact that a studio actually has the balls to litter a script that is targeted toward kids with a few curses and some really, really adult themed (some sexual) humor with such precision it will fly past kids’ heads and slam right into adults, demanding laughs, is really saying something.
So, in the end, Paranorman is a terrific Clay Animation film that has lots of good laughs, heart, and wit. Here is a film that can truly entertain children as well as their parents… and frighten them.
Run Time: 92 mins
Rated: PG for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor, and language