Cinema Review: ParaNorman Ian White August 23, 2012 Movie Reviews 2960 Pixar DIDN’T make ‘ParaNorman’. I just wanted to say that, straight off the bat, because a lot of people still believe – where smart and funny and beautiful- to-look at animated movies are concerned â€“ that Pixar is the only game in town. But after the critical trashing of ‘Cars 2’ and the lukewarm response to ‘Brave’, Pixar might be having a few problems. Rest assured that if Pixar lose their crown, Oregon-based Laika studios will be there to snatch it up. Because Laika DID make ‘ParaNorman’. And ‘ParaNorman’ is a perfect jewel of a creepily fun family movie.Â Norman Babcock (great voice work from Kodi Smit-McPhee) is an eleven year old boy with a very special gift. He can see and talk to dead people. This makes him kind of a misfit in Blithe Hollow, the little town where he lives. His father doesnâ€™t understand him, his mother worries about him, his not-so â€˜mean girlâ€™ sister is embarrassed by him and the kids at school think heâ€™s a freak. But when a centuries-old curse descends on Blithe Hollow, raising the dead and reviving the spirit of a vengeful witch, Norman and his â€˜freakyâ€™ talent is the only thing that might save them. â€˜ParaNormanâ€™ is an excellent film, perfectly rendered in stop-motion animation, with a screenplay that is fast and scary and funny enough to keep the kids transfixed while their parents enjoy some cool â€˜horror in-jokeâ€™ references and the whole family is rewarded with a heap of colourful characters, energetic vocal performances and smart storytelling. In tone, it falls somewhere between â€˜Coralineâ€™ (2009) â€“ Laikaâ€™s previous, and also quite amazing, stop-motion feature â€“ and ImageMoversâ€™ â€˜Monster Houseâ€™, an underrated little movie that was hamstrung by an imperfect script and some fake-looking performance capture animation. â€˜ParaNormanâ€™ isnâ€™t as dark and disturbing as â€˜Coralineâ€™ but itâ€™s funnier and even more playfully scary. And itâ€™s warmer and cleverer and way more impressive on every level than â€˜Monster Houseâ€™. There may be one or two moments in â€˜ParaNormanâ€™ that are a bit too scary for very young children but itâ€™s otherwise beautifully pitched, and although the message of the film is obviously to accept everyone no matter how different they are, and that being scared of someoneâ€™s difference can bring out the worst in all of us, â€˜ParaNormanâ€™ never gets schmaltzy or tries to sledgehammer that message home. In fact, this script â€“ superbly crafted by British screenwriter / co-director Chris Butler â€“ is as cleverly textured as the gorgeous characters and sets depicted on screen. While Normanâ€™s adventure never loses pace, Butler also manages to include a neat commentary on what really inspired the Salem-type witch trials, a smart sequence where we learn that a mob of scared living people can be more mindlessly frightening than any zombie horde, a nifty mention about what ghosts really are and why theyâ€™re here (which might put some nervous childrenâ€™s minds at rest) and a fantastic end-of-second-Act twist involving the identity of the witch that spins the story into a whole new direction and ingeniously adds an intense and emotionally honest extra level to the proceedings. Add to that a fierce little scene involving Norman and his friends in a van with a zombie trying to break through the roof while a motorbike cop is in hot pursuitâ€¦ a tense sequence where they take refuge in the town hall and find themselves in more danger from the hysterical townspeople than from the zombiesâ€¦ a literally explosive encounter in a haunted bathroom stallâ€¦ and a cute sequence where Norman makes friends with Neil, whose ghost-dog (that only Norman can see) was â€œran over by an Animal Rescue vanâ€¦Â both tragic and ironic” intones Neil, sadlyâ€¦ â€¦a very funny but all too brief use of the Donovan song â€˜Season of The Witchâ€™ (one of my favourite moments, I just had to mention it)â€¦ â€¦and a use of 3D which genuinely enhances the experience but donâ€™t worry because Iâ€™m sure â€˜ParaNormanâ€™ looks amazing in 2D as wellâ€¦ â€¦put all that together and youâ€™ve got a movie which is not only a great primer for any horror-loving parent who wants to introduce their youngster to the fun of a good scary story, but also has the true magic and joy of cinema woven into every frame. Go see â€˜ParaNormanâ€™ before the zombies eat your brain. Itâ€™s supernaturally wonderful.