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DVD Review: ParaNorman

November 27, 2012

ParaNorman – An Alliance Films’ Release

DVD Release Date: November 27th, 2012

Rated PG for frightening scenes

Running time: 93 minutes

Chris Butler (dir.)

Sam Fell (dir.)

Chris Butler (writer)

Jon Brion (music)

Kodi Smit-McPhee as Norman Babcock (voice)

Tucker Albrizzi as Neil (voice)

Anna Kendrick as Courtney Babcock (voice)

John Goodman as Mr. Prenderghast (voice)

Our reviews below:


ParaNorman DVD Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

At eleven years old, Norman Babcock (voice of Kodi Smitt McPhee) is going through a rough time in his life and at school.  His parents (Leslie Mann and Jeff Garlin) don’t understand him, his older sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick) just wants him to be normal and his only friend is the chubby Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) who is just as much of an outsider.  It doesn’t help that Norman can communicate with ghosts, interacting with the spirits of people who have died and still have unfinished business left with the living.  But Norman’s uncle Mr. Prenderghast (John Goodman) is warning him of an ancient curse that is set to be unleashed upon their town.  With zombies rising from their graves and a vengeful witch threatening the town because of a tragedy three hundred years earlier, they only have one night to set things right.

The stop motion animation in ParaNorman is nothing short of groundbreaking, and the fact that everything was made and manipulated by human hands gives a very tactile feel to the entire film.  This really is a film about the acceptance of those who are different and how a victim could be pushed to the point of becoming a bully, and these themes are brought up in a surprisingly moving and complex finale that brings a lot of depth to the entire story.  The screenplay brings up themes of death and moving on in a refreshingly honest and sometimes surprisingly frank way.  For older kids and adults, ParaNorman provides a surprisingly deep and thoroughly entertaining stop motion thrill ride that will hold up well to repeat viewings.  Please read my full thoughts right here.

The Blu-ray includes commentary with directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell, several animatic sequences as well as eight featurettes.


ParaNorman DVD Review By Erin V.  

***1/2 (out of 4)

In his small town, young Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) often feels like an outcast, all because of his peculiar gift.  He can speak to the dead.  While he doesn’t have many friends at school, he constantly sees ghosts and speaks with them instead, including the ghost of his grandmother.

But suddenly, his gift may be just what the town needs when a 300 year old curse is about to unleash zombies and havoc on the town if the witch behind it isn’t stopped.  And the only one that can do it is Norman.  Together with his older sister and a couple of other kids, Norman has to figure out how to face his fears and figure out just how his difference might be his greatest asset in stopping this threat once and for all.

While it won’t be for young kids, those a little older and adults will find a lot to like here.  The story is well written and the stop-motion animation (by Laika, who animated Coraline) is quite stylistically interesting and easy to admire.  ParaNorman is a story with a genuine character at its heart, and a story that takes a few twists and turns as we get to the whole showdown at the end.

The Blu-ray contains a good selection of special features, and the case is green rather than the traditional ‘Blu-ray blue,’ which fits the film very nicely.


ParaNorman DVD Review By Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

I have always liked films that celebrate being different.  In ParaNorman one boy’s extended sensory abilities make him a hero.  Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) has the ability to communicate with the souls of deceased people.  This gift makes him unpopular with his peers, and alienates him from his family.  His only living friend is Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), a boy who is bullied due to his obesity.

Norman’s gift of spiritual communication is about to come in handy, once an ancient curse comes over Norman’s small community of Blithe Hollow.  It is the 300th anniversary of a famous witch trial, that resulted in an execution.  Now the seven jurors and judge are to be brought back as zombies who will take over the town.  Norman must pair up with Neil, their siblings, and the school bully (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to settle the curse once and for all.

ParaNorman is a very interesting film.  The stop-motion animation is stylized in a way that matches each character perfectly.  There are plenty of little details here that may only get noticed on second viewing.  The film is well cast, with each voice working for its archetypical characters.  While set in modern day, ParaNorman has the feel of a 1980s family adventure film.

ParaNorman celebrates neurodiversity, treating differences as gifts as opposed to disorders.  While we don’t have witch trials anymore, neurological differences are now dampened and surpressed by pharmacology.  While mental illnesses do require treatment, it is unfortunate that current society tries to cure neurological differences, instead of refining them like gems in the rough.  ParaNorman is a fun supernatural adventure that older kids and adults can enjoy.


ParaNorman DVD Review By Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

The talented team of animators at LAIKA studios who created the Oscar nominated film Coraline have created another ghoulishly delightful stop-motion gem, ParaNorman.

Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is an ordinary boy with an extraordinary gift – he can interact with dead people.  Norman’s parents know their son likes anything to do with zombies but what they don’t realize is that he regularly chats with his dead grandmother (Elaine Stritch) right under their noses.  His sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick) thinks he’s weird and his best buddy, Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) tags along for the wild ride once Norman’s special secret is revealed.

The action begins when Norman’s Uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman) has a desperate dying message for Norman.  A three hundred year old curse is about to be unleashed on the citizens of Blithe Hollow.  The witch trials of long ago are about to come back and haunt everyone unless Norman can talk to the restless and unhappy souls who can’t wait to stretch their weary bones after centuries of being stuck in graves.

The highly stylized stop-motion characters in ParaNorman are impressive to watch.  The work that goes into making a movie like this is obvious throughout.  Along with being visually amazing, the film has a good storyline and just the right amount of scary action sequences to keep things fun for older kids and adults.  Fans of ghosts and ghoul stories who appreciate the art of stop-motion animation will want to own a copy of ParaNorman and check out the special features included on the discs.


ParaNorman DVD Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

ParaNorman is a stop motion animated feature about Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who sees dead people, including the grandmother (Elaine Stritch) who keeps him company in front of the TV. He is misunderstood by his parents (Jeff Garlin and Leslie Mann) and older sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick) and bullied at school, except by the chubby and also unpopular Neil (Tucker Albrizzi). When his dying uncle passes on to him the duty of appeasing the witch who three centuries back placed a curse on their town of Blithe Hollow, Norman is resolved to remove the curse once and for all, with the help of his friends.

Besides ParaNorman, this year has seen two other animated features on similar themes, including Hotel Transylvania and Frankenweenie, all of them excellent. The craft of stop motion with all its miniature figures automatically puts ParaNorman and Frankenweenie ahead of the CGI Hotel Transylvania in my opinion, and between the two stop motion features, Frankenweenie is better. But with its beautifully gothic art work and witty script delivered by a good cast, ParaNorman is highly recommended for all but the youngest children.


Consensus: With beautifully detailed animation that is brought to life through an excellent voice cast, ParaNorman is a thrilling and incredibly entertaining stop motion film that comes highly recommended for older kids and adults.  ***1/2 (Out of 4)

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