Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell
Distributed by Universal Studios
Brave. Frankenweenie. Hotel Transylvania. Wreck-It Ralph. Rise of the Guardians.
This year has given us a handful of really good animated films, but at the top of the heap must surely be ParaNorman, a wonderful film for all ages full of gorgeous imagery, hilarious setpieces, and more depth than you’d expect from a film like this outside of vintage Pixar. While other films of this ilk would be content to simply trade on their looks and yuks, ParaNorman manages to wrestle with more mature themes while providing stunning visuals and genuine gut laughs. As such, it’s the perfect type of kids’ film, doling out eye candy along with more nutritional properties to equally entertain and enrich the children (and yes, adults) who will watch it.
Norman Babcock (Smit-McPhee) is a youngster who should appeal to the monster kid in all of us: a bit of an oddball, an outcast at school, with a wonderfully morbid interest in horror movies and all manner of ghoulish things. Also, he can see ghosts. And talk to them. And when a powerful supernatural force from his town’s past seemingly threatens the safety of his friends, family, and the entire population of his hometown, Norman must find a way to use his talent for ghost whispering to unlock a long-hidden secret and save everyone from a dreadful curse. Along the way, Norman will face zombies, a witch, and, worst of all, ignorant townspeople banded together by a mob mentality that may be more of a threat than anything supernatural in nature.
I was stunned at how much I enjoyed this film. It didn’t promise too much from its trailers, at least not much more than the typical kids’ flick. But with its off-kilter visuals, energetic direction, and absolutely stunning stop motion animation (the best I can recall seeing), ParaNorman is easily one of the best times I’ve had at the cinema this year. Combine those virtues with a smart script and wonderful vocal performances from all involved, and ParaNorman has my vote for being an instant classic of its kind.
Universal has done right by this film by giving it the solid release on Blu-ray it deserves. It should be noted that there are three options available to consumers: a DVD version of the film, a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, and a 3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. For the purposes of this review, I’ll be taking a look at the regular Blu-ray (though if the 3D Blu-ray’s visuals are comparable to the theatrical exhibition, and if you have the tech, you should totally go for that version).
The image on the Blu is just fantastic, supersharp and full of detail, with spot-on colors. The audio, too, perfectly reproduces the film’s bold sound design. Bonus features-wise, there is plenty to sift through, beginning with an audio commentary from the film’s directors. Also included is Peering Through the Veil, a series of featurettes that can be watched individually, or as one sizable forty-minute making-of. Peering may not be as exhaustive as some recent behind-the-scenes docs, but it gives a good account of the film’s making, with good looks at the amazing artistry and the incredible amount of work that went into the production.
Then there are a set of three preliminary animatic sequences, giving us a good view at how well designed and thoroughly planned each of the featured setpieces were before going in front of the cameras. Finally, there is a fifteen minute collection of additional featurettes that take a more focused look at certain aspects of the film’s production (my favorite being Making Norman, which is a timelapse of our hero’s creation from the armature up). For those of you interested, there is also a D-Box Motion Code included.
A great release for a great film. If you haven’t yet managed to see ParaNorman, or if you simply avoided it entirely, do yourself a huge favor: give the film a rental at the very least, and check out one of the best films of any sort that this year had to offer.
– Walking with Ghosts
– Missing Ghosts
– You Don’t Become a Hero by Being Normal
– A Norman Childhood
– Playing as a Profession
– Making Norman
– This Little Light
– Have You Ever Seen a Ghost?
– The Zombies of ParaNorman
4 out of 5
4 out of 5