After a recent viewing of the visually stunning stop motion animation, Kubo and the Two Strings (2016), I was keen to check out other movies in the LAIKA studios back catalogue.
Paranorman is the story of Norman, a young boy outcast by his local community due to his claimed ability to see ghosts. When his home town is threatened by an ancient witches curse, Norman must use his unique talents to save the day. Disclaimer: I’m a big fan of 80’s horror, and this film spends a great deal of time and meticulous effort paying homage to the genre, if not directly, then in terms of tone and mood. In other words – I am going to like this film from minute one. And, from minute one – Norman is immediately likeable; the solid feel of the stop-motion gives the (sometimes grotesque) characters a reality and weight that is sometimes missing from CG animation. The writing is superb, funny and moving without being manipulative. There are also a few curveballs thrown in for good measure. Paranorman dares to be different on various levels.
Although I found myself wanting more of certain characters and less of others, I respected these as creative, rather than commercial decisions, and I can live with that.
Ultimately, I’m a visual guy, and I found the visual imagery in Paranorman beautiful and mesmerising. The cinematography is quite wonderful. While hitting all of the right classic horror movie beats, director Sam Fell skilfully avoids cliche, and manages to tackle some pretty heavy duty subject matter. Suffice to say that I was not expecting Witch Trials and their consequences to be a major element in a PG rated animation. This is an enjoyable film that deserves multiple viewings.