From Lakia animation studios, the production company behind many beautifully animated stop-motion flicks such as: ‘Coraline’, ‘The Boxtrolls’ and ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ to name a few, comes another mostly enjoyable creepy family adventure, thanks mostly to some fantastic stop-motion animation as well as it’s great cast. Even if the film may not be as entertaining as some other films from Lakia’s animated line-up.
‘Norman Babcock’ is a misunderstood boy who can speak to the dead, but when ‘Norman’s estranged uncle tells him of an important ritual he must perform in order to protect his home town: ‘Blithe Hollow’ from a centuries-old witch’s curse. He must take on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups in order to stop the curse from destroying everything he’s ever known.
The weakest element of the film for me is unfortunately the story, as although the idea of having a young boy who can see ghosts is a decent idea in itself, almost serving as: ‘The Sixth Sense’ for families in a way. The rest of the narrative never reaches the eerie tone of: ‘Coraline’ or the fun of: ‘Missing Link’, with the film even attempting to have a few emotional scenes, but most of them fall a little flat, mostly due to never truly having the impact they need. The humour throughout the film is mostly decent however, as whilst not every joke lands, the majority of them do, and the film usually has comedy for all ages, despite a few jokes going on for far too long.
Kodi Smit-McPhee does a pretty solid job as: ‘Norman Babcock’, as well as Tucker Albrizzi, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and John Goodman. However, my personal favourites of the cast have to be Anna Kendrick and Casey Affleck as: ‘Courtney’ and ‘Mitch’ without a doubt. As the two of them portray two weak-minded teenagers helping ‘Norman’ on his paranormal adventure, with ‘Courtney’ clearly having an interest in ‘Mitch’ which he is completely oblivious too.
Tristan Oliver handles the cinematography throughout ‘ParaNorman’, which is definitely a weaker element of the film, as the cinematography simply backs-up the animation rather than doing anything incredibly interesting with the shots, there still is the occasional pleasing shot however, and the cinematography does display many of the miniature sets very well.
The original score by Jon Brion is very reminiscent of classic 1980’s horror flicks, which is suitable considering the film’s opening scene has the protagonist ‘Norman’ watching a classic zombie film, and while the soundtrack isn’t incredibly memorable on itself, it works well enough in the film to increase some of the comedy and atmosphere when it can.
Unsurprisingly, the stop-motion animation is phenomenal throughout the film. As every character and miniature set looks incredible, having a creepy and exaggerated yet still appealing look. All with smooth motion similar to any other animated story, CGI or not. In the few short instances were CGI is used within the film however, it’s normally used to great effect, usually to simply improve the visuals rather than taking the emphasis away from the animation itself.
So despite the film not quite managing to have an incredibly memorable story for the majority of it’s run-time, I would say I enjoyed myself. As although ‘ParaNorman’ still isn’t my favourite of Lakia’s film line-up, as I personally feel there isn’t many areas the film overly succeeds in. The film is decently entertaining for the most part, and I’d say it’s probably a low 7/10 overall.