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Parents thinking about taking young children to see “ParaNorman”, a 3D stop-motion animated adventure horror film produced by Laika, and distributed by Focus Features, might want to reconsider seeking out lighter fare currently playing in theaters such as “Ice Age”. Although beautiful to behold and well scripted, “ParaNorman” focuses on the topics of alienation, fear, and death. If your kids are ready to be exposed to entertainment similar in spirit to Joss Whedon’s “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, then “ParaNorman” delivers.

How’s the story?

Unusual for an animated feature film, ParaNorman provides a nuanced script that will delight and frighten older kids as well as entertain parents. The story takes place in a small run down New England town of Blithe Hollow, a boy named Norman Babcock communicates with the dead including his late grandmother and various ghosts in town. Unfortunately, almost no one among the living believes he genuinely possesses this ability. He’s alienated by his family while being relentlessly ridiculed and bullied by most of his peers for his bizarre habit of casually conversing with supposed ghosts. When fate intervenes, Norman is asked to save the town from the vengeful spirit of a witch. Answering the call, Norman enlists a motley crew, mayhem ensues and the adventure begins.

How is the animation?

Generally speaking, stop-animated films can be hit or miss in their execution. “ParaNorman” represents a new level of excellence for the genre. The jarring movements of a typical stop-animation movie are absent in “ParaNorman”. While watching the “ParaNorman”, I initially thought the movie was a highly stylized 3D CGI animated film. Audience members will be hard pressed to tell the difference. Scene after scene of intricately detailed visually compelling environments compel viewers to keep their eyes glued to screen.

Any opportunity for Bathroom breaks?

The movie as a whole moves at a slower pace than most animated feature films. Best bets would be when Norman first attends school as well as the scenes with his new friend Neil.

Overall Rating: B+

Recommended for children ages 7 and up.

Pros: Visually striking animation. Nuanced script.

Cons: Slow-paced at times. Inappropriate for younger kids. Some characters too stereotype based.

“ParaNorman” Official Movie Trailer: