HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Starring: Kodi Smit-Mcphee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck
Directed by: Chris Butler
Written by: Chris Butler, Sam Fell
Studio: Universal Studios
Runtime: 93 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: October 20th, 2012
HTS Overall Score:86.5
Universal isn’t exactly known for their animated features, their most popular animated title being another stop motion flick, Coraline. While not as creepy and “Tim Burtonesque” as “Coraline”, “Paranorman” still has that eerie Halloween vibe that brings it from being a true kids movie to almost an adult movie. I’ve always loved animated films, whether they be the big budget ones like Disney and Pixar to the more niche titles like “Coraline” and “Paranorman”. Unfortunately for us “Paranorman” doesn’t live up to the pure gold that was “Coraline”, but luckily for us isn’t a bad film by any means, it trys so hard and there are some great laughs and great moments, but the cohesiveness of the film is lacking, trying too hard to straddle the fence between a childs movie and taking a more mature theme along for the ride.
Norman (Kodi Smith-McPhee), our young 11 year old hero, is different than all the other children in Blithe Hollow, he can see the dead. As a result of this “gift” Norman is ostracized by everyone around him including his well-meaning family, having no one to talk to Norman feels more at home with the dead around him than the living. Making friends with Neil (Albrizzi), the overweight bully target, Norman just slumps through his life, wishing someone would take him seriously. That all changes when his uncle (John Goodman) dies, leaving Norman with the task of keeping 300 year old dead witch from wreaking havoc upon their fair town. Getting interrupted in his sacred ceremony by the school bully the witch awakens and with her comes the undead souls who tormented her in life. Norman now has to, with the help of his sister Courtney (Kenrick), Neil and Neil’s older Neanderthal jock of a brother, Mitch (Casey Affleck) take care of the witch, lift the curse of the undead and still get home before his parents get home.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9922[/img]“Paranorman” was a fun film to be sure, it wasn’t’ as amazing as its predecessor “Coraline”, but it was entertaining, albeit a little kiddy at times. The problems in the film weren’t from it aiming at a younger audience, but due to the fact that it tied to straddle the fence between adult and children’s film. The morality tale had that cute kiddy feel to it, but in the next scene it switched to a very dark and serious theme dealing with child murder and the effects of fearing what you don’t understand. Norman and Neil blended well with plenty of cute humor dealing with a beloved, but dead, family pet’s ghost, while at the same time there was enough adult humor to choke a horse. Signs that spelled out a double entendre, ring tones of the original “Halloween” series soundtrack and jokes about jock steroid use riddled the film as well as the child’s morality tale that was laid on thick. Again, I must say, these flaws didn’t make a horrible film, rather they took a film which COULD have been great and drew it down to just plain good Due to some of the really dark themes present in the films, I wouldn’t recommend this to very young children, as one would with say “Madagascar 3”, but rather a teen audience or us adults who are nothing but children at heart.
Rated PG for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9923[/img]I have to say that I’ve been blessed in the last few months to see some truly fantastic transfers. Animation has always been the cream of the crop eye candy wise in home video, but we’ve seen some serious improvements in Blu-ray authoring this last year, ”Madagascar 3”, “Brave”, “Arthur Christmas” and now “Paranorman”. “Paranorman” is about as perfect an animated picture as one could hope for with the technology available to us. It’s a rather dark and dusky film, kind of emulating the Halloween movies of old in its grim color palette, but still what colors ARE shown and crisp and clear as a bell. Greens, yellows and blue’s dominate the screen, shifting from dark and grey to the brighter overtones of a daylight scene. Being that Reds and other primary colors are not as prevalent for the overall color tone they stand out like a shining beacon when they are introduced (usually reserved for the kooky side characters as a means to have them “stand out” from the rest of the picture). Shadow detail is fantastic, as dark as the film is the blacks and rendered with enough bitrate to keep them from crushing out all the detail. Facial and background detail is up there with the best of them. Claymation animation doesn’t carry as much detail for the individual characters as traditional cell based or cgi, but the backgrounds are literally teaming with detail and activity, drawing your eyes from the main characters to the lush and exquisitely drawn backgrounds and back again. Artifacting is nill, Banding (an animation film’s worst nemesis) has decided to leave us alone and macro blocking never rears its ugly head. Overall I’d definitely say this is another demo disc for all us home theater junkies
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=9924[/img]The audio is no slouch either, an excellently immersive track from beginning to end. Most of the first half of the film is dialogue based without many explosive effects, however what is presented is excellent. Dialogue is firmly planted in the center channel and dynamic range is solid. No need to raise and lower the volume, but at the same time there is a solid range of the sound stage. Whispers sound quiet and subdued, a car crash jolts us out of our chairs and the sound of a dogs paws pattering across the ground is clean and defined as one could hope for. The second half of the movie is where the action kicks into gear, from then on we’re regaled with excellent surround usage as a crowd of crazed villagers roar and mob around our heroes, tin cans whistling through the air and slamming doors thundering around us. The LFE is amazing, surrounding us with a plethora of Halloween noises and scares. For being animated kids movie I was honestly surprised just by the sheer AMOUNT of LFE present. Instead of a few bumps and bangs we get a low low low rumble throughout the movie giving the movie a very creepy and aggressive track that completely side swiped me. I was highly impressed by Universals encode for this track, impressive in just about every way and one to show off your new subwoofer to be sure.
• Audio Commentary
• Peering Through the Veil
• Additional Featurettes
• Preliminary Animatic Sequences
“Paranoman” isn’t going to be an instant classic a la “Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Coraline”, but it’s a fun Halloween romp for fans of animated films. For those who love stop-motion movies, they’re getting harder and harder to find so it’s always a treat to find one handled with such loving care in the creation of the on-screen action. The Stop-motion effects are near flawless and lack some of the rough edges that earlier effects were prone to. While not as unique and original as other Halloween outings its impressive audio and visual scores alone make it at least worth a watch.
Buy Paranorman on Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Rent It