Film Review: ParaNorman

ParaNorman is a fun family animated feature that tows the line in being ghoulish without being frightening. The film should be enjoyed by adults and children alike.

In the town of Blithe Hollow, Norman is a young boy detached from the everyday world. Norman can see and talk to ghosts, but no one but his new friend Neil believes him. When his eccentric uncle tells him about a curse, it is down to Norman to save the town…

ParaNorman is an adventure film that is a bit more sombre than most animated features of this type. Humour is present in the film, but is not a constant feature. ParaNorman is not really a comedy. It is not a horror movie either. There are some macabre scenes, but it is never too scary for children.

Norman is an interesting protagonist. The early sequence of him walking to school is great in its ability to encapsulating his character. Themes of the outsider and belonging are played out overtly. There was a danger that the film would get overly sentimental, but ParaNorman eschews this. The film offers a meaningful message without excessive syrup.

There are some great references to the horror genre, that those even with just a passing acquaintance should be able to spot. The credit sequence is fantastic. With its references to old horror films, ParaNorman is almost a homage to the genre played out as a family animated movie.

Kodi Smit-McPhee is well cast as the voice of Norman. ParaNorman is populated with well known voices. Casey Affleck is amusing voicing Mitch, while Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann and John Goodman all do a great job. The soundtrack to the film is also good.

ParaNorman is macabre in places, but its unequivocal message is most positive. A well animated and entertaining family film.