Let me start off by saying I am a little biased toward ParaNoman simply because it's a stop-motion film and I have always been fascinated by this incredible art form. I have made some stop-motion films myself and let me tell you it's not easy. I am also a massive fan of Coraline which is made by the same production company as ParaNorman, Laika Entertainment.
If you're thinking this plot is too scary for a young audience, you might be right. Some of the scenes involving the witch are very menacing similar to a child's nightmare but some very clever and incredibly funny gags help to lighten the mood of this amusing horror film. My favorite example is when the zombies are encroaching on a man using a vending machine. Instead of running the man waits anxiously, hoping his crisps will come out before the zombies eat his brains!
Anyone who at some point felt like an outcast at school is sure to relate to Norman. The audience can't help but root for him and watching him succeed is very uplifting.
I loved the fact that the film and its marketing was themed around classic 1930's horror films. It's a smart throwback to the films that ParaNorman is clearly based on.
Halloween is coming early this year
I was a little confused why ParaNorman, clearly a Halloween film, was released at the begining of September! I can think of two possible reasons for this weird decision. It could be because they wanted children to see the film during the summer holiday. I think the most likely reason though, is that Tim Burton is releasing Frankenweenie in the October half term which is also a Halloween themed, stop-motion film. It is definitely ParaNorman's biggest competition and having a name as big as Tim Burton's on it, it's not a fair fight. I guess the filmmakers thought that bringing their film out first would give it a head-start.
Kodi Smit-McPhee was an excellent choice to voice Norman. He gave the character a lot of heart. Not to mention he has experience in the horror movie after his role in the film Let Me In.
Animation is coming back to life
Computer animation these days strives to look as real as possible. Stop-motion has this amazing hyper-real quality - you can see all the detail and feel the textures, but with none of the artificial immaculate alienating quality of CGI. ParaNorman in particular was incredibly rich, a real feast for your eyes, and the characters had a really cool, unusual design.
All in all I came out of this film feeling really moved as well as entertained. I felt they used the fact that Norman could she dead people in a clever unique way - for example he had a very sweet relationship with his dead grandma. Norman's special power wasn't used in a stereotypical horror movie way to scare its audience but a way in which kids (and their parents) could really relate to.