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ParaNorman 3D


Stars: Voices: Kody Smit-McPhee, James Garlin, John Goodman, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Casey Affleck, Jodelle Ferland

Director: Chris Butler, Sam Fell

11-year-old outsider and victim of the school bully Norman (aptly voiced by Smit-McPhee) prefers watching ghosts, ghouls and horror on the small screen with his dead grandmother as company and is happily immersed in all aspects of the supernatural.

He also has the unusual ability to see and speak to the dead, which he does on his way to school, a talent that turns out to be vital when, despite his eccentric uncle Prenderghast warning Norman about a centuries-old witch’s curse and urging the lad to try and soothe the witch, seven zombies rise from their graves and attack the town of Blithe Hollow, leaving Norman to rise to the occasion and save the day…

Superb stop-motion animation and vivid 3D cinematography bring the dead to life splendidly, creating scary - but not too scary – movie monsters. Chris Butler, who wrote the (somewhat preachy) screenplay and co-directs with Sam Fell, brings his realistically flawed characters – living and dead – to vivid life and puts them through their paces with a highly entertaining blend of comedy and shock. I particularly enjoyed Norman’s riotous wrestling match trying to wrest a magical book from the hands of a tiresome corpse in the throes of rigor mortis: the scene perfectly exemplifies the fanciful flavour of a movie designed to thrill, chill and raise laughs - and which largely succeeds.

Vocal casting is excellent – Elaine Stritch rasps as Norman’s deceased grandmother, John Goodman’s Uncle Prenderghast is spot on, Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s school bully is just right, and other roles are spoken to good effect.

Verdict? It’s funny, ingenious and genially ghoulish.

Those critics who have pursed their lips and complained that the film should have a 12A certificate rather than the perfectly appropriate PG certificate from the British Board of Film Censors, appear not to know enough about the tastes of the contemporary children who are the film’s target audience.

Today’s youngsters (and I speak from experience) roam the TV channels and enjoy such shows as ‘Doctor Who’ with its cornucopia of weird, wonderful and often ‘behind the sofa’ scary monsters dreamed up by the BBC, and ‘Scooby Doo’, which cheerfully serves up vengeful zombies, grisly ghosts, walking mummies and other legions of ‘scary’ monsters for its young fans.

Indeed, I'm sure youngsters will cheerfully hold the hands of accompanying adults who find themselves a tad unnerved by the supernatural show.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour.
92 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 15 Sep 2012