Friday, 23 November 2012

Film Review | ParaNorman

From afar, Laika Entertainment's first feature film since Coraline in 2009 looks questionable at best.

But come a little closer. Look again. How about now?

Coraline was of course adapted from the charming Neil Gaiman novel of the same name, whilst ParaNorman springs from an original script by a first-time filmmaker. Likewise, Coraline was directed by stop-motion maestro Henry Selick, whereas Laika's latest has its own unknown author at the helm, chaperoned by Sam Fell of Flushed Away fame. One can't help but wonder where all the talent went, and why.

ParaNorman's premise is similarly discouraging: there's this little outcast kid called Norman - voiced by The Road's Kodi Smit-McPhee - and he can see dead people. That old chestnut again, then.

And isn't the title terrible? On the other hand, inappropriate capital letters are a real pet peeve, so maybe that's just me.

But never mind the title, and rest assured that the premise improves. Finally, forget the apparent lack of talent, because ParaNorman wants for nothing once it gets going. Admittedly it takes a little too long to get to the good stuff - the story goes, though very slowly - but beyond this belated beginning the pace improves, the narrative arc becomes darker, indeed deeper, and once the ante is upped, the cartoonish characters come into their own.

It's hard to express how different this film is before and after the half-hour mark... suffice to to say some shock of creative energy seems to possess ParaNorman at this point. Make it that far and you'll be blown away by the array of fantastic surprises the filmmakers have been holding back.

ParaNorman deals in a very real way with bigotry, religion, peer pressure and yes, death; astounding and encouraging in what is ostensibly a children's film. The film tackles such topics lightly but not loosely, investing the proceedings with meaning enough to last past the end credits. More movies like ParaNorman, and perhaps there's hope for the next generation yet!

In terms of entertainment, writer/director Chris Butler - alongside Sam Fell - equips himself incredibly well. Its iffy offing aside, ParaNorman builds and builds towards a remarkable finale, and all the while it's bloody lovely to look at, and beautiful musically, too. 

Overall, ParaNorman is a less consistent film than Coraline, but at its best? I'm as surprised as anyone to find myself saying that it's actually rather better.

1 comment:

  1. Loved ParaNorman, was totally blown away by the conclusion. Actually found myself liking the slower, easier pace that it had at the start though - that it took it's time to set a tone and let us get used to the world without the fantastical stuff, before all of that kicked in, was a big plus I reckon.

    Did think it wasn't as funny as it tried to be though.