'ParaNorman' for animation fans only

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:40 PM ET

ParaNorman is a 3D wonder to behold and very likely a game-changer in the world of animation. It's from Laika, the same magicians who created the film Coraline.

It is a Herculean task to create a stop-motion film like ParaNorman, so it's too bad the story and the characters in this adventure tale are so weak.

Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a little boy who can speak to ghosts and goblins. He watches TV in the company of his dead granny and chats with her ghost, but his parents think he's making up stories and his dad is particularly irritated by Norman's behaviour. On the way to school, Norman greets many ghosts by name; not surprisingly, he is teased and bullied at school for this and kids write 'freak' on his locker.

At school, Norman begins to see strange things under the normal surface of his classmates' faces. In the bathroom, the ghost of his deceased uncle (John Goodman) bursts through the toilet to tell Norman that he must hold back the witch's curse that hangs over their little town. Otherwise, the dead will rise up. Norman's job is to prise a book out of the dead hands of his uncle's body and read it at the graveyard at the appointed time. Coming along for the ride are Norman's older sister (Anna Kendrick), a friend's older brother (Casey Affleck) and a local bully (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

Adventure follows, but not the type you would expect. The townspeople turn on the potential threat from the undead, and prove to be appalling, ignorant citizens who set fire to the town hall even though there are children inside. They have more in common with the zombies than they know. Norman eventually encounters the very witch herself, and in her real form -- just a girl, albeit a terrifying one -- and thereafter, a lot of baloney gets flung around about bullies, being different and not being afraid. It all sounds slapped on at the last minute.

Little kids will watch anything that comes with popcorn, but ParaNorman is far too dark for smallfry and way too preachy for older children. The basic story -- isn't different little Norman wonderful and brave! -- is condescending and not that interesting.

This one may be for animators and animation fans only.


Videos

Photos