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ParaNorman (2012)


ParaNorman is a Laika Entertainment stop motion animated film, like Kubo and the Two Strings and Missing Link. Kodi Smith-McPhee voices Norman, a child who can see and talk to ghosts. Smith-McPhee may be most famous for laying Nightcrawler in the X-men series. Norman’s unique ability is widely known and earns him endless mockery in school and at home. The cast also includes Anna Kendrick as Courtney, Norman’s older sister who joins in on making fun of Norman. Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasee, Jeff Garlin, and John Goodman all lend their voices to the film.

The film is set in Blithe Hollow, a stand-in for Salem Massachusetts, like Hubie Halloween and Hocus Pocus. Hundreds of years earlier a witch was hung from a tree and seeks revenge from the afterlife on the town that murdered her. Norman gets to leverage his unique ability to save the town and become a hero. This earns the respect of his family and peers.

This film reminded me of Coco. I think Coco had one of the most touching on-screen representations of what happens after we die. ParaNorman does not achieve that level of impact, but it is still a good way to explore your feelings of loss and your ongoing relationship with dead loved ones. Norman’s grandmother’s ghost has been living with the family since her death. At the beginning of the movie, everyone in the house is dismissive of the idea that she is still in the house. At the end of the film, Norman serves as a conduit between his father and his grandmother. It is a small scene, but it is a great ending to the movie. Norman’s gift is celebrated in a way it should be. Earlier in the movie, Norman helps his friend Neil play with his dog’s ghost. Children are open to new and wonderful ideas and concepts, but it is great to have the movie affect adults as well.

Stop motion animation is incredibly costly and time-consuming. ParaNorman likely helped fund Kubo and the Two Strings. Missing Link may have eaten up all those profits though. I hope that Laika steers back towards heartwarming stories of love and connections between people and the past. Stop motion animation is a wonderful art form that far too few people work in. ParaNorman is an enjoyable and touching movie made with a wonderfully creative method.

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