It's kind of crazy how much of an influence "The Nightmare Before Christmas" left on future stop motion animated movies. Before the film, it was mainly seen as a special effect primarily done by Ray Harryhausen, the average Christmas special from Rankin-Bass or even a commercial featuring the California Raisins, the Noid and so forth. Once "Nightmare" came along however, everything changed for the better. I do love how stop motion still has somewhat of a creepy edge to as seen in movies like "Corpse Bride" and "Coraline". It was also still fresh and new when I saw "ParaNorman" as well. Animated by Laika, the same studio that brought us "Coraline", the film takes some horror tropes that have been done before and gives them a brand new coat of paint and added some meaning to it. In all honesty, I really did enjoy this movie.
Eleven-year-old Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) has the ability to communicate with the dead who have now appeared as ghosts. He's gotten used to this and treats the ghosts like average people. However, the town and even his own family don't believe him and have basically isolated him. Although he does make a best friend named Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), he still is having a hard time fitting in. Things get only stranger when the spirit of his late uncle Mr. Prenderghast (John Goodman) tells him that a ritual must be performed at the grave of a witch before sunset. Things don't go according to plan though and the spirit of the which summons up several zombies from the grave. In the end, it's up to Norman, Neil, Norman's older sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick), Neil's older brother Mitch (Casey Affleck), and Norman's bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to put a stop to the mess. That's really all I can say about the film because you've got to see it in order to witness how great it is.
I really didn't expect this movie to be as good as it was. The film was co-directed by Sam Fell, the director of the decent "Flushed Away" and the not so great "The Tale of Despereaux" and clearly he has made his best movie with this film. The story was really good, not only poking fun at some old horror film tropes but also giving us a great message for both adults and children alike. It also has lots of funny moments. One instance is where Prendergast tells Norman to swear and Norman misunderstands him thinking he wants to say the "F word" rather than promise to put an end to the curse. I got a pretty good laugh out of it. The animation is also great. The film definitely looks different from "Coraline" and stands out with its cozy town compared to the boring Pink Apartments in the former film. It also has one of the best-animated climaxes in any stop motion movie with its striking visuals during the scene. The thing I do love the most about this film is how funny the characters are. I could really relate to Norman. He has a special gift, but everyone does think he's weird in a way including his whole family. Neil and Alvin did provide for some funny moments and I just really loved seeing Courtney trying to flirt with Mitch which led to one of the funniest jokes in the whole film which I dare not spoil here. If I really had to nitpick this movie, I'd say maybe it did feel a little too slow at times. I do get some of the scenes needed to be slow for the audience to catch their breath, but maybe they could've picked things up just a little quicker.
"ParaNorman" is really a surprising movie with a funny and clever story, striking animation, and relatable characters that I'm sure audiences will have a great time. If you liked creepy stop motion movies like "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Coraline", then I'm sure you'll love "ParaNorman". I really did.