'ParaNorman' an animated kids horror story

atomictown.comAugust 17, 2012 

Norman Babcock is a strange kid. He sees and talks to ghosts. No wonder Norman has no friends.

To his credit, though Norman accepts his unusual talent, he is nearly as creeped out about the ghosts he sees as those around him are when he claims to see them. That's the least of Norman's problems.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

A curse from the 1700s is about to unleash zombies to wreak havoc on his community. Only Norman can stop the carnage. With the help of his off-beat, self-centered sister, his only friend and the friend's brother, and a bully from school, Norman desperately digs for clues that will undo the curse.

Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In) gives voice to Norman. He's joined by Anna Kendrick, who has a blast doing Norman's sister. Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Tempest Bledsoe and John Goodman round out the cast.

ParaNorman is done by Laika Entertainment. Laika did Coraline and Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. The production company specializes in horror films for kids and stop-motion animation. When done right, both can be fun.

Technically, directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell do a terrific job with the characters, the sets and the animation. The 3D is very good, and while I didn't see the two-dimensional version, I imagine on a visual level it works quite well, too.

The two directors also don't take Butler's story too deep or get too scary. It's a kid's movie, so that's expected. But a horror movie for children also ought to be fun. ParaNorman has its moments, but on a whole, it doesn't quite make it to laugh-out-loud, rib-tickling territory.

Kids also like creepy and missing is that nice dash of the willies they love so much, which puts grins on their faces and ours.

Contrast ParaNorman with Coraline and Corpse Bride. They were great horror stories, filled with laughs and interesting characters. Combined with the stop-motion animation and they were entertaining fare for people ages eight to 80.

Alas, Butler and Fell don't quite get there with ParaNorman.

P.S. When you catch the film, wait through the credits. There is a nice outtake at the end involving the creation of Norman.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars

Director: Chris Butler and Sam Fell

Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Casey Affleck, Anna Kendrick, John Goodman, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Tempest Bledsoe

Rated PG for mature themes. It's playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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