Appealing, but too intense for some

BIG ASSIGNMENT:  Norman, voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee, takes on zombies and ghosts in <I>ParaNorman.</I>
BIG ASSIGNMENT: Norman, voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee, takes on zombies and ghosts in <I>ParaNorman.</I>

PG, 1hr 45min
Reviewed by Katy Breheny .

ParaNorman might have some parents questioning how much is too much for children to know and be exposed to, but the feel-good factor might just overrule any misgivings. Or it might not.

Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) lives in a creepy small town built on a centuries-old legend of a witch's curse that periodically awakens to threaten the town. Known by the townspeople as the weird kid who talks to dead people, Norman always has someone to keep him company. The problem is that no-one else can see them.

If this ability weren't enough to set him apart, Norman finds his troubles are just beginning when he suddenly becomes responsible for keeping the town safe from 300-year-old zombies. While everyone around him panics, Norman knows just what to do. But he might be swallowed up by forces far beyond his wildest imagining.

The stop-motion animation is appealing, especially when it comes to characterisation - you can note details as tiny as the sheen of Norman's sister's lip gloss. There is a humorous quirkiness about the people around Norman, especially his friend, Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), and Neil's big buff brother, Mitch (Casey Affleck).

At the start of the movie, the supernatural aspect is amusing although it walks a zig-zag line, sometimes crossing into potentially gruesome. While playing fetch with a ghost dog that has been severed in two might be hilarious for some, it might not have the same charm for others.

When the zombies show up, they are not as appealing as the rest of the cast, although they do the usual zombie things like dropping an ear, losing an arm or even a head now and then, in pursuit of their human prey.

Hackles might rise when Norman counsels a murdered child judged a witch about crossing to the other side.

Even in 2-D, the action around this is intense and scary and definitely won't suit young children, being probably more suitable for intermediate age and above.

You have to reflect on the contrast in children's movies this holiday season with Rise of the Guardians working hard to preserve the belief of children in Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny while ParaNorman leaves a bit too little to the imagination. Neither have got it quite right, but ParaNorman has the benefit of being a much better movie.

There are family-friendly moments but the movie won't be for all children, let alone the adults who go with them.

Manawatu Standard