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.
Apparently I’m not alone in praising the film, as fellow reviewer Chris Pandolfi also enjoyed the theatrical version way back in August. While he may be a little more cautious in recommending it to younger viewers, here’s a snippet of his full review, which can be found right HERE:
“For the most part, the film is in the spirit of fun, walking the fine line between more mature thrills and family entertainment. There are select scenes, however, that push the limits of where a PG-rated movie can and should be allowed to go. The most glaring example is when Norman must pry a book from the lifeless hands of his uncle Prenderghast; as he struggles to free the book, the body is flung around like a ragdoll, and eventually, it falls on top of Norman, causing a huge length of tongue to roll out of the head and slap Norman in the face. Had this been a live action film, this scene would have been disgusting and perhaps even offensive. I believe that many kids will greatly enjoy ParaNorman, but I also believe that some of them will find it frightening. Exercise caution when taking them to the movies this weekend.”
I really enjoyed how mature ParaNorman is, despite the advertising campaign’s efforts to make it look like a silly childrens 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.
Watching the movie on Blu-ray made things even better, as the beautiful stop-motion/CG animation and audio both come in crystal-clear high-definition glory. Every color and small detail can be seen here, from specks of dirt on the ground, to the fabric in the character’s clothing; this is why I love stop-motion animation so much – it’s real. The DTS-HD 5.1 audio track is just as detailed, as every funny line and scary sound comes through perfectly. The special features are also just as fun as the film is. There’s the usual 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.
Oh, and don’t forget to hang around after the credits for an extra special treat, especially if you’re a big fan of stop-motion animation.
ParaNorman is a 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. Laika follows up their morbidly fun Coraline with another great stop-motion adventure that also manages to balance two genres you’d never thought would compliment each other so well: the family-friendly comedy and zombies. But it works, mostly because the story and characters are so strong and shows great respect for all audiences. Those who aren’t easily offended by this take on the family film genre will find plenty of love here. 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 movies released this year, animated or otherwise.
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