PG (scary action and images, thematic elements, rude humor, mild language); 93 min.
Norman, the young hero of the animated delight ParaNorman, hears dead people. He sees them, too. So there's no sense trying to comfort him because you think he's missing his dead grandma too much.
Since Norman has grown up in Blithe Hollow, a town with a rich history of witches and witch trials, it's only natural that Norman is a little "ParaNorman." But it gets him teased, and his creepy-crank of an uncle (voiced by John Goodman) won't leave him alone. Norman has a destiny, his uncle says, a duty to lift the 300-year-old curse that has hung over the town since one infamous witch trial centuries before. The witches are coming back to haunt the town. Only "ParaNorman" can save it.
ParaNorman is a stop-motion animated marvel from some of the same folks who gave us Coraline and Corpse Bride, and it wears its bloodlines with pride. It's that rare kids' movie with edge, a witchy, witty romp that could frighten the very youngest moviegoers and makes parents blanch at some of the jokes. This isn't Ice Age, children.
ParaNorman, written by Chris Butler, an artist who worked on Corpse Bride and Coraline, and co-directed by Butler and Sam Fell ( Flushed Away), wears its anarchy well. It's a spooky picture with a morbid sense of humor.
Equal parts scary, intense, emotional and humorous, ParaNorman is also a movie of messages, about what "scared, stupid people" are capable of (witch trials), of misjudging the "different" and the consequences of intolerance. That makes ParaNorman almost paranormal in its kids'-movie ambitions, and that's a good thing.
-- Roger Moore, McClatchy Tribune News Service