ParaNorman

ParaNorman

Enjoyable stop-motion spookhouse adventure from Laika, the Portland-based animation company responsible for Coraline. If you dug their previous film, you'd probably enjoy ParaNorman - it's the Blue Boy to Coraline's Pinkie, with the titular 11-year-olds seemingly made for each other, even if their stories practically take place in different universes.

With Norman the only kid in his Massachusetts town (clearly modeled after Salem, with its streets lined with tacky witch-themed stores, though much shabbier than the real-life city) who can see and talk to ghosts, he's a natural outcast. But when he starts getting visions of a witch's 300-year-old curse about to come to a head, the rest of the doubting townsfolk soon realize that Norman's abilities are quite real indeed. Spookhouse thrills ensue.

Though ParaNorman lacks Coraline's uniqueness (courtesy of Neil Gaiman, on whose work that movie was based), ParaNorman makes up for it with wittier dialogue, a surprisingly dark sense of humor, and well-designed characters. (The voice actors are also hip and often well-cast against type, including Anna Kendrick as Norman's cheerleader sister, Christopher "McLovin" Mintz-Plasse as a bully, and Casey Affleck as a dimbulb jock.)

Not a whole lot of twists and turns in co-director Butler's original screenplay, but the movie looks and sounds great. The animation is so seamless that it could pass for CG, except that the stop-motion models have that extra organic quality where you can see subtle variances in the lighting and shadows frame by frame, which in my opinion makes the animation so much more magical than what computers can achieve.

This horror movie is ostensibly for kids, but I get a feeling that knowing adults will enjoy it just as much, if not more. Insecure parents who feel their wee ones will be terrified should relax; ParaNorman has some gleefully creepy and scary moments, but the children at my screening seemed to enjoy every minute of it. This movie's no classic, but it's good eerie fun.