The risk-taking and irreverent animated zombie adventure “ParaNorman” is a throwback in more ways than one.
The horror-comedy for kids — it's not suited for most preschoolers but children who can take the terrors of an elementary school playground can handle it — is the latest stop-motion project from Laika, the Portland, Ore.-based studio that made the similarly dark 2009 fantasy-horror feature “Coraline.” But it also channels the impish spirit of 1980s Amblin Entertainment movies like “The Goonies,” “Gremlins” and “E.T.”
In the shabby New England hamlet of Blithe Hollow, where the local economy is based on a legendary witch hunt that happened 300 years ago, 11-year-old Norman Babcock (voice of Kodi Smit-McPhee) is considered an outcast because he can actually see and speak to ghosts.
As the anniversary of the witch trial nears, Norman's creepy Uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman) claims that the lore of the sorceress' curse is real and that he needs the boy's help keeping her spirit calm and her hex at bay. When zombies begin rising from their graves and the townsfolk panic, Norman realizes it's up to him, his shallow sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick), his chipper best friend Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), Neil's dim-witted brother Mitch (Casey Affleck) and school bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to save the day.
With all the stop-motion animated movies released this year — “ParaNorman” debuted in theaters between “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” and “Frankenweenie” — the 40-minute multi-part making-of documentary provides fascinating insight into the elaborate and detail-oriented filmmaking process.
The Blu-ray also includes seven featurettes, three preliminary animatic sequences and an audio commentary, along with the DVD, digital and ultraviolet copies of the movie.
— Brandy McDonnell