ParaNorman is a family friendly horror/comedy, like Monster House or, I dunno, Ernest Scared Stupid. I didn’t like it quite as much as Monster House, but it’s good. I don’t think I’ve seen Ernest Scared Stupid all the way through, but I’m guessing it’s better than that. Was that the one where they shoot trolls with milk-filled Super Soakers or something?
ParaNorman has two big problem. First, it drops both the horror and the comedy a little too frequently. The throwaway character interactions, the zombie scenes, and the surreal freakouts are all really enjoyable, but there are long stretches where we’re forced to stop and learn about feelings and the nature of the zombies’ curse. I like emotions, sure, but that stuff just doesn’t work in this movie.
The other problem is that Norman is a bland, boring character. It’s a shame we’re stuck spending so much time with him, because most of the people around him are pretty funny. I thought for sure that Anna Kendrick as the older sister would be nothing more than stunt casting, but she manages to bring something to the role, and Ben Affleck’s little brother steals some scenes, as well.
But it was the look of the movie that held my interest the most, though not entirely in a positive way. I’m a bit of a stop-motion nut, and something about the animation was really throwing me. At first I wondered if maybe I were watching a CG movie with an unsteady frame rate meant to imitate Claymation; something like Flushed Away. In truth, it was shot in practical stop-motion, but the characters’ faces were printed with a 3D printer, so you get stop-motion with unprecedented fluidity and precision. The end result looks like CG with really good lighting. I bet it would look great in 3D, but I saw it in 2D, so I can’t say. All I know is that stop-motion loses something when it’s done too well, and the computer-aided perfection combined with camera angles, compositions, and editing stolen from live-action movies (or, more accurately, stolen from CG movies that stole from live action) is actually less impressive than the jerky, irregularly-textured look that’s associated with the stop-motion. But then again, the freaked-out horror scenes and the wackier characters are pretty pleasing to the eyes.
Anyway… This review ran a little long… Ernest Scared Stupid. Maybe I should watch it some day.