ParaNorman - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

ParaNorman Reviews

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Super Reviewer
August 30, 2012
The superb animation combines 3D stop-motion and CGI effects into a dazzling visual spectacle, but the plot drags with an irregular pacing and only occasional funny jokes. The result is an average experience that ends with a clichéd message about how bullying is bad.
Super Reviewer
½ September 14, 2012
The animation is really original and well done, the effort that had to go into this film alone makes you want to appreciate it. Sadly, the story isn't much help after a decent start. While it is likable that the film tries to stay surprising and avoid stereotypes the plot becomes a bit of a mess in the second half. It's also surprisingly gritty and not exactly for all children. Somewhat disappointing.
Super Reviewer
January 11, 2013
From the same studio that created the delightfully creepy "Coraline" comes another family horror flick that once again boasts great stop-motion animation. Unfortunately, it's a shame to report that the rest of the film is not nearly as finely crafted in other areas.

It's not like the narrative didn't contain an interesting premise, that which follows a socially awkward boy named Norman, who has the uncanny ability to talk to the dead. Norman is an immediately sympathetic figure because nobody believes in his special ability and the small town society he lives in socially and emotionally rejects him due to this, especially his parents. However, as the story picks up things become significantly less interesting (Norman's ability never ends up having any significant bearing on the plot).

The two biggest problems stem from two sources: the characters and tone. The characters are in short: boring and painfully one-dimensional. Even Norman himself goes underdeveloped, almost as if the script was way more interested in giving screen time to the supporting cast. Speaking of the supporting characters, most of them are forgettable archetypes (the fat geek kid, the jock bully, the blond girl) that mostly exist to tell jokes and nothing else. This leads to the next crippling prevalent issue, a good majority of the humor in this film fall completely flat due to inept comedic timing or being lame cliché jokes that have been used in so many other past films.

The whole affair also feels tonally confused, with the horror and family film elements not nearly as well balanced as they were in "Coraline". The main threat in this film consists of resurrected Puritan zombies and they never end up coming off as a foreboding threat. It's as if the writer's were more interesting in the visual gag possibilities of the zombies rather than establishing them as a credible threat (Heck, it seemed like even without Norman the zombies would have been easily defeated by the town's people). On one end, kids may get a kick at some of the jokes but meanwhile adults will most likely be bored with the overly simplistic drawn-out narrative and half-baked horror elements.

Once again, it's not like the film was completely unsalvageable. There is a third-act plot twist that is actually legitimately heart-breaking and leads to by far the best scene in the entire movie (at least the most emotionally charged section that was thankfully devoid of forced jokes). It also leads to an admirable life lesson about accepting others and dashes of slightly daring social commentary (at least, for a kids film) regarding society's treatment of outsiders. It's just a shame that the sequence came so late into the film because it only served as a reminder for it's wasted potential.

In the end, "Paranorman" serves as an example of a good idea that was terribly executed. Great animation and an interesting premise are buried six feet under a crappy narrative, awful pacing, poorly written humor, and jarring tonal inconsistencies.
Super Reviewer
½ August 11, 2013
This has to be one of the most surprising, awe inspiring, and beautiful films of the year, and on top of that it's a children's film. Laika, a new studio on the scene, made this film in a revolutionary style, akin to "Coraline," but in 3D. The studio took a chance on a very quirky and independent kind of film, and it's these studios that are bringing out newer and better concepts for children's faire. Not only is this film morbid, but it's also revolutionary when it comes to its characters. Maybe some of the templates are still there, but the characters themselves are completely different, and certainly entertaining. Our hero Norman (Smit-McPhee) is odd of course while also having a supernatural power, which makes him even odder and plainly different than the antagonizing children around him. Really, the kids in this film are overtly mean, and though it's a bit over the top it is realistic. Norman is interested in zombies and death, because he speaks to the dead, and while this is set up very ingeniously, it's also swift for us to realize that this kid isn't normal Norman. The other supporting characters seem as usual as you get in a kid's film, but there are some surprises. The pudgy kid who gets all the laughs is much more sincere than the usual slack-jawed numb nuts stereotype. The typical jock gets a major upgrade and changed the face of children's movies, maybe forever. The visuals in this are as amazing as you would expect from stop motion puppetry through computer animation. Besides the characters being weird, so are the settings, the zombies, and the villain is the most impressive witch to be featured in a children's film in years. Besides being a strange alternative for most kids it also has a great message and goes against bullying, which is always good. This is one of the best films to show a child, especially those that are strange themselves.
Super Reviewer
January 24, 2013
It's all fun and games until someone raises the dead.

Good animated movie! This was a rather surprising movie. It's unlike any other modern animated movie and picks a new sort of approach, that should work entertaining for both adults and kids. Overall, the voice acting is great, the animation is superb as always, and the 3D remarkably works well. I was expecting a great movie, and I got it with this film. It may be a little too scary for kids under the age of 10, but everyone else should have a blast. I hope this film does well, and I can't wait to see what Focus Feature's next big animated project will be.

In the town of Blithe Hollow, Norman Babcock is a boy who can speak to the dead, but no one besides his eccentric new friend, Neil, believes his ability is real. One day, Norman's estranged eccentric uncle tells him of an important annual ritual he must take up to protect the town from a curse cast by a witch it condemned centuries ago. Eventually, Norman decides to cooperate, but things don't go according to plan. Now, a magic storm of the witch threatens Blithe Hollow as the accursed dead rise. Together with unexpected new companions, Norman struggles to save his town, only to discover the horrific truth of the curse. With that insight, Norman must resolve the crisis for good as only he can.
Super Reviewer
June 4, 2013
Very well done animation, with a great story of acceptance of the different in oneself and others. A more sophisticated animated film in that it doesn't rely on screaming parrots and potty humor to pander to children or immature adults. Highly recommended.
Super Reviewer
February 13, 2013
Grandma: There's nothing wrong with being scared Norman, so long as you don't let it change who you are.

"It's all fun and games until someone raises the dead."

ParaNorman is a fantastic film filled with great animation. There's some great homages being paid here as well throughout. From Halloween to Night of the Dead, a number of great horror films have their hands all over this. The film is extremely fun, but also I would have a hard time showing it to my kids, if I had some. These children movies these days are getting more and more real world. Some of the things said in this movie truly shocked me when I think about the target audience. Still, for me as a childless adult; I loved it. 

Norman is a odd young boy. While most kids are running around with their friends, Norman's only friends seem to be... well, um... dead. Nobody believes that Norman can actually speak to the dead and most of the kids at school just pick on him and call him names. Even his family has had enough of him. One day his uncle(who can see ghosts too) dies, and his spirit comes to Norman telling him that he must read a book to the witches grave to stop the curse from happening. Well, he doesn't get there in time and now the dead are the living dead.

The setting for the film is in a Massachusetts town that is supposed to resemble that of Salem, Massachusetts. The town is built on the history of a witch that was killed many years ago, and now wakes up once a year to fulfill her curse, if not read to from the book. The setting works really well and the movie does have a lot of great, mild horror elements at work, that makes it a very rewarding movie for horror buffs. It's a lot like Frankenweenie in those regards.

ParaNorman is definitely a worthwhile film and one of the better "scary" family movies to come out in recent memory. Although, if you plan on watching it with the kids, I suggest watching it before you do because there may be some material that you wouldn't want your kids watching or listening to. I would also consider this a must watch for horror buffs along with Frankenweenie because seeing all these horror elements and homages done in a more mild way is just a lot of fun.
Super Reviewer
February 19, 2013
Fun movie!! Lots of chuckle moments...
Super Reviewer
January 15, 2013
'ParaNorman'. Hilariously clever visual gags, a lovable central character, and beautiful stop motion. Deserves the best animated feature.

Is it stupid to say a "kid's film" is too heavy-handed with its message? That would be my only complaint of 'ParaNorman'. A little more subtlety would not have been missed, and I do only mean a little more.

Oh, and 'Frankenweenie' has a lot to learn from this. The way that thing fell apart made me marvel this further.
Super Reviewer
January 4, 2013
I really enjoyed the look and feel of this flick. The world they created was spot on for this story and it all worked. Much like a friend of mine I think the first hour or so is solid and very entertaining. It starts to fall apart a little as the film wraps up though. Not that it's a bad ending it's just not as solid as the beginning and middle.
Super Reviewer
January 4, 2013
A powerful film both in terms of it's awe-inspiring stop-motion animation and it's unexpectedly complex themes and commentary.
Super Reviewer
January 1, 2013
A fantastically entertaining and strangely powerful film. Norman is a boy who can talk to ghosts, which leads to him being ridiculed by everyone in town. But when his uncle tells him of a witch's curse, it's up to Norman to save the day. ParaNorman has a strong message behind it and handles it in a way that isn't sappy in the slightest. It was strange seeing mature themes handled in such a delicate but emotional fashion, especially for a family film. The vocal work is fantastic with Tucker Albrizzi stealing the show with his quick and clueless onel-liners throughout. Smit-McPhee has a delicate voice that doesn't seem as though it should suit an animated tale, but it does completely. The animation is beautiful, even when bringing the dead back to life and the film does well to provide a number of action sequences that mix chills and laughs in equal measure. The only issue is that the film does have a lot going on and the ghosts are pretty much dropped for the majority of the film. A great adventure and I hope we'll see a sequel.
Super Reviewer
½ October 8, 2012
It suffers from a pretty limp middle section, but ParaNorman makes up for it due to a charming voice cast, brilliant score, hilariously edgy jokes, unique animation style, and a fantastic, heartfelt third act.
Super Reviewer
½ November 3, 2011
"PARANORMAN is an enjoyable tale for the whole family. The story is fun. There are lot of great characters too. I loved the brother's, Neil and Mitch. All the actors did great with their characters. The movie is just a lot of fun. I liked that it's different from any of the other animations that have been out. *SPOILER* Some people had issues with a scene near the end of the movie where Mitch tells Courtney that he has a boyfriend. Really people. I think it's pretty safe to assume that it's the 21st century and kids know all about homosexuals. I think it's pretty ignorant to try and shield them from something that is in the every day world.*END OF SPOILER* Anyways, I think a lot of people will enjoy this dark, funny, imaginative movie that has brought something different to the animation world."
Market Man
Super Reviewer
½ September 4, 2012
The stop-motion works great and the film is surprisingly very funny (I was expecting something more along the lines of "Coraline"). There are a few references to classic horror films as well, which is pretty cool. It's a decent story, although near the end things get a bit too sentimental for my taste which sort of strays from the tone of film. Otherwise, it's very entertaining and I found myself laughing quite a bit. There's some adult humor in there as well, which I always love to see in 'kids' films.
Super Reviewer
½ September 23, 2012
Finally we get another 'Nightmare Before Christmas' type flick! Been waiting for this and yet amazingly it isn't Tim Burton behind the camera or script. Can't deny that's the first thought that entered my head...'this is a Tim Burton film...surely!'.

But no this isn't, its completely Burton free and what's more its pretty darn good. Visuals up first of course, what can I say, they look flippin great!. A blend of clay-mation with a hint of CGI in places but in that nice old school way which hasn't been made deliberately perfect. Characters, buildings, backgrounds etc...are not created exactly symmetrical but with a slightly twisted and dare I say...Tim Burton-ish approach (can't get around saying that sorry). Kooky is a good description word here.

The colour palette is also quite nice and offers a bold yet shaded range giving off a cozy comicbook feel. Animation wise its really slick too, smoother than other well known clay-mation films and with great depth in backdrops and vista's, loved the evil looking sky towards the end.

The whole zombie thing is cool and for some reason made me think of 'Thriller', I guess because this film actually has some quite semi scary moments. Usual mix of hocus pocus, curses and regular 'kids film type characters' but big close ups on undead faces, screaming howling zombies, zombie limbs flying off, evil witch forces and the odd small jumpy moment make this more for the older teen viewer. Visuals will entice the kids but the content will be appreciated more by slightly older kids/teens.

The story does turns out to be quite sweet in the end I might add, the finale is quite moving and in a way detracts from what has gone before really. Almost a total swing in mood from horror comedy to nice fairytale bookend.

Lots of nice touches throughout, I really liked how Norman is the only person who can see ghosts around the town. Nothing original there but a nice spooky 'Beetlejuice' 'The Frighteners' flavour, wish we had seen much more of that.

I knew I would like this as the whole concept is right up my alley and I'm sure anyone who enjoyed films like 'Nightmare Before Christmas' 'Corpse Bride' 'Monster House' etc...will enjoy this. Not overly original and characters aren't overly inspired but a fun haunted little ride with some cute lines of comedy and lovely visuals, just wish the ending wasn't so weepy.
Super Reviewer
September 22, 2012
Quite funny, sometimes surprisingly clever, and with just enough darkness to surprise. A nice quirky approach to the "it's okay to be different" theme, this time more than just a little chastizing to those trying to maintain the status quo. Visually impressive and fast-paced; I personally could have used a touch more of that insubordinate edge, but it's fun.
Super Reviewer
November 1, 2011
Norman is an 11 year-old boy with a very unusual gift - he has the ability to see and speak to the no longer living! His own family thinks he's out of his gourd for talking to his dead grandmother and he's regarded as a freak by his mean and bullying school mates. Until one day, when dark, ominous visions suddenly assaults his extrasensory mind; making him aware of a terrible curse that rests upon his home town. A vindictive witch, who has a score to settle with the town inhabitants, sets to raise the dead from their graves, which becomes the point of departure for a hair-raising adventure, rife with zombies, phantoms and many a skin-crawling moments.

Chris Butler, who here make his directing and screenwriting debut with the somewhat more experienced Sam Fell (Flushed Away, The Tale of Desperaux), delivers a visually goluptious, if uneven yarn, that takes the rather ancient stop-motion technique (the first creation of its kind came already in 1897) and hones it to its ideal condition. Not least as it has applied a set of cutting-edge 3D printers to generate faces for its characters.

For all the confectionary to the eyes, however, the film is marred by its unbalanced tempo and somewhat bromidic structure. I welcome all the fun references to old horror favourites like Friday the 13th and Halloween, but the narrative hobbles too much, at the same time as many of the characters seem a little too stereotypical and normative to fully engage. Norman's bimbo of a sister is one such case - the dim-witted muscle package Mitch, another.

The voice-acting, however, is consistently on top, with wholehearted efforts by names like Christopher "McLovin" Mintz-Plasse, John Goodman and Bernard Hill. The ensemble is also gilt-edged by fresh talents in the genre in the form of Casey Affleck and Anna Kendrick. Humor-wise it's very hit-and-miss; it never really amounts to more than a couple of chuckles and it feels like the script would have done better with hiring in a writer of more comical aptitude. Not that Butler's dialogues don't fill their function, but they lack a certain geist, to lift it beyond banality.

As an amusing fun-for-the-moment escapade, it works more than well though. The macabre theme, which also has a great deal to say about people's ignorance and odium to remove their blinders, is neatly interweaved with the colorful animations, which are of prime and first-rate caliber. The absence of blood may perhaps be lame to those who hankered for an animated Braindead, but as a G-rated family feature it's adequately scary and fits well with the given format. Then again - you may not want to retell it as a bedtime story to kids below the age of 6. Just a tip for all the parents out there who value their beauty sleep.
Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
September 12, 2012
The gorgeously animated stop-motion film ParaNorman is a terrific sight for the eyes. There's a certain magic to stop-motion, the tangible nature of it all, the knowledge that these intricate worlds actually existed. Like Coraline, the previous film by the same animation house, I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this handcrafted world. The animation is so fluid, so sprightly, and displays a rich artistic tone. The story, about a kid who can see ghosts, is noticeably less ambitious. The characters are a tad one-dimensional (bratty older sister, dimwitted jock, socially awkward chubby best friend, etc.) and the plot is fairly predictable, but what really elevates ParaNorman is its sense of humor. I was laughing heartily throughout the movie, not just a giggle or a chortle but good, solid laughs. ParaNorman has an irreverent sense of humor with some surprisingly adult-oriented gags (nothing to worry about parents). With these virtues, the movie becomes an entertaining horror comedy aimed at young teens and older adults. It's a fun movie, short of a saggy second act, and the animation is aces.

Nate's Grade: B
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