For years it seemed like Tim Burton was the only filmmaker taking chances by infusing horror into the family friendly genre of animation with the likes of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Then Henry Selick and Neil Gaiman gave us Coraline, which is a wonderful horror movie for kids, beautiful to watch, cleverly told, and just a touch scary. Now we have some new players in the game and a wonderful new movie. The movie is ParaNorman and the players are Chris Butler and Sam Fell, they have delivered delightful film and given us another movie that successfully brings horror into the world of animation.
ParaNorman takes a cue from The Sixth Sense and runs in a completely different direction. At the center of our tale is Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee). He is an outcast, bullied at school and misunderstood by his parents. The young boy has a talent, one that helps paint him as the outcast, he sees dead people and regularly has conversations with them. Norman is perfectly at ease with seeing and conversing with the dead, even if no one else believes him.
Now, while talking to the dead is the seed of the story, it is just one piece of the whole. Norman lives in a town, which is a lot like Salem, MA, and this town has lived under a witch's curse for centuries. In short order, it duty falls on Norman to step up and save the town from the curse and a gaggle of zombies when the crazy old bum Mr. Penderghast (John Goodman) imparts the knowledge onto the youngster and then passes on. Along for the ride are Norman's shallow older sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick), the school bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), fellow outcast Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), and his older brother Mitch (Casey Affleck).
It is quite an exciting film filled with action, chases, zombie invasions, and plenty of creepiness, while also having plenty of heart. ParaNorman brings creepy, sweet, smart, scary, and funny all together in one package. It is certainly family friendly, but at the same time, it does not shy away from being a bit edgy and frightening, pushing the limits of the PG rating. Don't let this scare you off from showing to children, I believe all but the youngest will by fascinated by it.