Norman Babcock can see dead people. Quite a talent you might think but b-movie fanatic Norman (voiced by The Road’s Kodi Smit-McPhee) is far from happy. Misunderstood by his parents and feared by his classmates, Norman spends his days watching zombie films and talking to his grandmother’s ghost.
His home town of Blithe Hollow is famous for that most child-friendly of historical moments: witch trials. The legend of a centuries-old witch’s curse may have become nothing more than a marketing gimmick, but the town holds an unpleasant secret and Norman’s gift makes him an unlikely hero when the witch’s wrath is unleashed and a horde of zombies rises from the grave.
A 3D stop-motion animation from the makers of Coraline, ParaNorman features a sparkling cast including John Goodman and Anna Kendrick, inventive setpieces and an understated story that simmers rather than sizzles. Pacing may seem slow at times but the core of the movie is like Norman himself: a calm centre around which a maelstrom of weirdness is happening. It has its own outsider charm without relying on Buton-esque dark whimsy, handling the melancholy of feeling different from your peers with a light touch.
The film’s climax is as much about listening and understanding as it is a confrontation with a big bad and manages to say a little about the importance of learning from past mistakes and friendship without straying too far into preachy territory.
ParaNorman is a fun and rather sweet film which will subtly delight pop culturists and which asks some gentle questions about human nature.