ParaNorman (PG)


Movie Info

Voices: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch.

Directors: Chris Butler, Sam Fell.

Screenwriter: Chris Butler.

Producers: Travis Knight, Arianne Sutner.

A Focus Features release. Running time: 93 minutes. Scary images may frighten young children. Playing at area theaters.

ParaNorman is the second stop-motion animation movie from Laika Entertainment, whose first film, 2009’s Coraline, was a spooky, scary wonder. On the surface, the new picture is even more frightening, replete with ghosts and zombies and monsters. The story is also more complicated: Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is an outcast nerd who loves horror movies and sees dead people, like the ghost of his beloved grandma (Elaine Stritch), who remains perched in her favorite spot on the living room couch and talks to her grandson as if she were alive.

Then an ancient curse cast on the town by a witch threatens to make the dead to rise from their graves, turning Norman into a reluctant hero. A lot of ParaNorman, which was directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell, relies on familiar formulas: The crazy old coot (John Goodman) who may know a secret; Norman’s snotty older sister (Anna Kendrick); his chubby best friend (Tucker Albrizzi); the school bully (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Unlike Coraline, which focused intently on the childhood terror of suspecting your parents may not be who they seem to be, the story of ParaNorman sprawls in a dozen directions. There are zombie attacks (mostly funny, rarely scary), teenage antics (the kids drive around in a van that bears a faint resemblance to Scooby-Doo’s Mystery Machine) and a third-act revelation that changes the tone of the film from spooky to beautiful, gentle tragedy.

None of this is all that engaging. But the art design of the movie makes up for the slack story. Butler and Fell are diehard fans of the horror genre and they have peppered the film with an endless array of subtle homages and gags, from scratchy VHS tapes of slasher flicks to aural cues of everything from Tubular Bells to the theme from Halloween. A lot of this stuff will sail over the heads of children, who are without question the target audience (unlike Pixar movies, this one doesn’t offer much for grown-ups to chew on). The stop-motion animation, combined with the angular design of the characters, keeps the eyes entranced, though.

ParaNorman is a minor but memorable late entry into the summer movie season, and even though it’s in 3D, this one seems destined to find its true success on home video, where children will probably want to watch it over and over — and hide under their covers during the scarier parts.

Read more Reeling with Rene Rodriguez stories from the Miami Herald

 <span class="cutline_leadin">What’s the secret?</span> Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites are a brother and sister trying to solve the mystery of a demonic mirror in ‘Oculus.’

    Oculus (R)

    Mirrors have been as much of a fixture in horror movies as knives and cats that suddenly jump from the shadows. But they’re best in cameos, as in the ending of Dressed to Kill or the bathroom scene in The Shining. Oculus revolves entirely around an ornate mirror that is, what, a gateway to hell? A summoning force for evil spirits? A really ugly piece of furniture from a medieval Pottery Barn?

Iko Uwais and Cecep Arif Rahman square off in a scene from ‘The Raid 2.’

    The Raid 2 (R)

    Every time you think The Raid 2 can’t possibly top itself, writer-director Gareth Evans goes “Oh, yeah? Watch this.” Most of 2011’s The Raid: Redemption took place inside a tenement raided by a SWAT team to apprehend a mobster and his squad of killers holed up inside. Practically no one survived the movie — the violence was astonishing — but the contained setting and the idea of having events grow hairier for the good guys the higher they went in the building gave the tight 101-minute movie a sense of compressed, relentless action. Now comes The Raid 2 (known as The Raid 2: Bernadal in its native Indonesia), which is far more expansive and complicated, and runs almost 2 ½ hours. Miraculously, the new picture makes the old one feel like Evans was just warming up.

A sexual addict (Charlotte Gainsbourg) visits a therapist (Jamie Bell) with unorthodox methods to try to help get over her compulsion in ‘Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2’

    NYMPHOMANIAC VOL. 2 (unrated)

    Nymphomaniac Vol. 2 (unrated)

    Things get really kinky in Nymphomaniac Vol. 2, the second chapter in director Lars von Trier’ epic-length saga about a woman who can’t get enough. If you saw Vol. 1, which ended with our perpetually horny heroine Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) losing all feeling in her sexual organs, you might be wondering, “How could this movie outdo the first one?” To quote the great Bachman-Turner Overdrive, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category