I absolutely loved Laika’s debut feature film Coraline when it was released in 2009, as it was a fun and wickedly macabre take on the 2002 book written by the fantastic Neil Gaiman. Now the famed stop-motion studio returns with the equally impressive ParaNorman, a surprisingly mature adventure that manages the near-impossible: mixing a family-friendly comedy with zombies, and doing both justice. Featuring a great story, fun characters, some mature themes and, of course, zombies, it doesn’t shy away from treating kids like small adults, but they’re sure to get some laughs and chills from one of the best films released this year.
Taking place in a small town that slowly becomes overrun by zombies, there’s only one person they can turn to, a young boy named Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Why him you ask? Well he just so happens to have the ability to to speak with the dead. Thankfully he has a few friends on his side to help him summon the power and courage he’ll need to overcome this zombie menace, least the world be taken over by the dead.
I really enjoyed how mature ParaNorman is, despite the advertising campaign’s efforts to make it look like a silly children’s film. From the funny innuendo sprinkled throughout (just about every adult female in the movie has a lot of ‘curves’), to tackling issues such as bullying in an impressive way (the final confrontation was one of the most thrilling moments I’ve ever seen in animation), it may go over most young viewers’ heads – and probably some adults – but I love how it doesn’t treat them like they’re stupid. Everyone who watches is sure to enjoy the fun characters with solid voice acting performances behind them, the fitting fun/thrilling music, and of course a troupe of undead zombies that aren’t what they seem.
Shout Factory did a great job making the visuals look a smidge better on this release thanks to encoding with a higher bit rate. This makes the beautiful stop-motion/CG animation look even better as every color and small detail can be seen, from specks of dirt on the ground, to the fabric in the character’s clothing. The DTS-HD 5.1 audio track is back from the 2012 Blu-ray and makes sure every funny line and scary sound comes through perfectly.
The special features are also just as fun as the film is. There’s audio commentary by directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell who go into plenty of detail of how the movie came along. There’s also about an hour total of behind the scenes featurettes that can be watched separately or back to back that shows the care and detail that went into making the movie.
There’s also new extras such as feature-length storyboards that play to the film’s audio, and “Inside LAIKA” featurette that gives viewers and inside look into the famous studio which is awesome, and some never-before-seen ParaNorman animation test footage that’s also a treat to behold.
ParaNorman is a creepy but oh so fun, mature animated feature that treats children like small adults and isn’t anything like the generic kiddie fare that the misleading ads want you to believe it is. Do yourself a favor and pick up this delightfully ghoulish treat on Blu-ray for your collection, as it is hands-down one of the best family movies you can own.