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ParaNorman
BLU-RAY disk
12.25.2012 By: Mathew Plale
ParaNorman order download
Director:
Chris Butler, Sam Fell

Actors:
Kodi Smit-McPhee
Tucker Albrizzi
Jeff Garlin

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A young boy (Smit-McPhee) leads the defense against zombies and ghosts trying to take over his hometown.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Norman stands out in his school. He’s not the smartest kid or the best athlete. It’s not even his haircut or goofy ears that make him known. It’s his ability to see and talk to ghosts.

In the fall, Norman (voice of Kodi Smit-McPhee) joins the school play, where he befriends a chubby redhead named Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), who has to scrub “fatty” off of his locker on a daily basis. Neil finds Norman’s quirk “awesome,” and begs Norman to speak to his dead dog, who was hit by a car and torn in half. Norman’s uncle (John Goodman) also acknowledges his nephew’s gift and demands he protect his town, Blithe Hallow, from a witch’s (Jodelle Micah Ferland) curse.

ParaNorman is directed by Sam Fell (co-director of Flushed Away and The Tale of Despereaux) and Sam Butler (working his way up from the art department on Corpse Bride and Coraline), and is the latest from Laika, the production company which launched in 2005, made a name for itself with Henry Selick’s Coraline and has immediately proven to modern moviegoing families that Pixar isn’t the only studio making animated features that both kids and adults can enjoy together. Like Coraline, ParaNorman is a visually impressive effort, with seamless stop-motion animation and imaginative scenery.

Of the three major animated horror-themed movies of 2012, ParaNorman sits at the top. It is constantly amusing, boasting a morbid (yet kid-friendly) sense of humor. So much that’s supposed to be scary also doubles as funny, like the dead grandmothers/pups and the moaning/growling zombies. There are also a number of clever nods to classic horror movies (Norman’s ringtone is the theme to Halloween; Neil spooks his best friend with a Jason-inspired hockey mask, only to ask if he wants to play hockey) that will keep the older crowd on their toes. So, too, will guessing who voices who. There’s Jeff Garlin as Norman’s dad, Leslie Mann as his mom, Anna Kendrick as his big sister, Elaine Stritch as his grandmother, Casey Affleck as Neil’s brother, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as a school bully.

ParaNorman is one of the more enjoyable animated movies in recent years. It works best around Halloween, but you may want to watch it before next year’s Oscars, even though it will no doubt lose to the far less inspired Brave.

THE EXTRAS
Feature commentary with writer/director Chris Butler and director Sam Fell: Butler and Fell give an easygoing and comprehensive track, which is enhanced by the pair’s obvious chemistry. They cover a lot of ground during the runtime, a lot of which isn’t touched on in the below featurettes.

Preliminary Animatic Sequences (9:08): This collection of roughly animated drawings and sketches show the early stages of three sequences. Optional commentary with Butler and Fell is available.

Peering Through the Veil: Behind the Scenes of ParaNorman (40:49): Collected here are nine featurettes that provide a thorough and informative look into the making of ParaNorman. They are: “That’s ParaNorman,” “Creating a World,” “Voicing ParaNorman,” “Building Characters,” “Making Faces,” “Rigging the Game,” “Bringing the Undead to Life,” “Angry Aggie,” and “Weird and Wonderful.”

Featurettes (14:53): These additional seven featurettes touch on a variety of topics, including the artists behind ParaNorman, how Norman was constructed and crew ghost encounters.

Also included is a DVD/Digital Copy.

FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Production company Laika’s second feature (following 2009’s Coraline), ParaNorman, is a well-animated, visually impressive horror-comedy, both scary and funny throughout for the younger crowd. Parents, too, should enjoy the more adult-minded jokes and clever nods to horror classics like Halloween and Friday the 13th. The transfers look and sound great, as the video shows off the fine details in the animators’ work and the sound gives a spooky ambience. Special features cover a variety of aspects on the making of ParaNorman.
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