Much of Paranorman’s publicity has focussed upon its relationship to the sublime Coraline (produced by Laika, the same stop-motion animation studio), and certainly it this that initially piqued my interest in Laika’s latest effort.
Coraline was utterly wonderful: its animation a joy, its central conceit entirely engaging. As such, my hopes forParanorman were high, desiring another complex protagonist, as well as a wonderfully nuanced narrative.Paranorman is relatively removed from its predecessor, not only in its choice of a male protagonist, but in its extended use of well-judged humour. That is not to say of course that its use of light-relief undermines its central message: Paranorman is at times both unsettling and disturbing.
The young Norman, through his ability to both see and communicate with the dead, finds himself ostracized by both his family and his peers. His father doesn’t understand Norman’s continued assertion that his deceased grandmother is present in the familial home, and his classmates do not take kindly to witnessing Norman seemingly communicating with himself. Despite his apparent oddness, Neil, a similarly bullied classmate takes kindly to Norman and his unique talent, and the pair quickly embark on a friendship.
Norman and Neil find themselves accosted one day by Norman’s uncle; deemed eccentric by Norman’s father, Mr Prenderghast boasts the same talents as Norman. The ailing Mr Prenderghast references the fabled witch’s curse, in which those responsible for her death are brought back to life, as an historical fact. Norman, possessing the same ability as his uncle, is the only person who can stop the curse.
Paranorman is rather wonderfully conceived: Norman is a sensitive protagonist, frequently lamenting both his loneliness and his father’s inability to understand him. His friendship with Neil is brilliantly comedic and thoroughly genuine. Neil himself provides much of the film’s humour; his witticisms and mannerisms are truly amusing.
Paranorman is a touching, often profound film, and much like Coraline should become essential viewing for its young audience.