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ParaNorman - Blu-ray Review

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Paranorman - Movie Review

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4 stars

In the summer that saw Pixar falter once again, it is pretty easy to declare ParaNorman, from the studio that brought Coraline to life, as the best animated feature of the year so far.  The mighty production houses are slipping or maintaining status quo and their stumbles are clearing the way for smaller studios like Laika to forge an interesting and unique path ahead.

ParaNorman pretty much seals the deal.  Strong, charming and funny, this is an animated feature that pleases the young and the old alike in admittedly demented ways and catches the eye with a pretty-looking picture (matching anything the big boys at Disney and Dreamworks can come up with) about acceptance and isolation in a time of zombies.

ParaNorman is a somewhat dark story of an interesting boy named Norman (voiced by The Road’s Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is “blessed” with the unfortunate ability to see and speak with the dead.  This includes dogs and his deceased grandmother.  Even perfect deceased strangers know him by name; Norman sees the dead and they are everywhere.

Over the years, he has grudgingly grown to accept his talents…even though isolation has been the cost. His mom and dad – voiced by Leslie Mann and Jeff Garlin - think he is making it up and only wants to play pretend all day long.  His teenage sister – voiced by Anna Kendrick – just wants him to be normal or get out of her way.  Fellow students at the local school ridicule him and, as a result, he has no living friends.

The melancholy tone that ParaNorman oozes is fortified when the overweight and bullied Neil – voiced by Tucker Albrizzi - befriends him; bonding over their mutual loneliness.  Norman clues him in on his paranormal gifts and the two become fast friends.  Yet, this ghost business suddenly becomes all too real when Norman’s reclusive uncle – voiced by John Goodman – informs him that has to keep the town safe from a 300-year-old curse involving zombies.

Spirited adventure meets up with some serious pathos in this timely comedy written by Chris Butler (who shares directing credit with Sam Fell).  The first half of this tale is very traditional and keeps its aim locked on some seriously good times; it’s the second part that moves us with thoughtful introspection and social commentary.  The key ingredient the bridges the gap here is humor, humor, humor.  Dark and twisted, the scathing humor is consistent and always captivating.  Even the backgrounds are put together in such a way as to garner some gnarly laughs and elbow nudges.

Stylistically, Laika’s distinctive animation is a retro vibe that is very attractive.  The 3D stop-motion produces some fine moments and some herky-jerky ones, too.  But real emotion is caught in the eyes of these figures and that, in itself, is a stunning achievement.  Part of the look of the film has its inspiration from 1950’s B-movies and the other part is modern.  At times, these opposites don’t always produce logical sequences, but they sure are pretty.  And, in animation, that counts.

From the opening synthesizer chords one would expect to hear on a John Carpenter soundtrack to the hand-crafted details put in every eyebrow arch, ParaNorman is a fun throwback and a smart work of beauty.  The Portland-based Laika Studios, if they keep up this quality of storytelling and animation, might just dethrone Pixar at their own game.  It’s spooky to think that way but ParaNorman is that good.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Paranorman - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language.
Runtime:
93 mins.
Director
: Chris Butler, Sam Fell
Writer: Chris Butler
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee; Tucker Albrizzi; Anna Kendrick; Casey Affleck; Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Genre
: Family | Animated | Comedy
Tagline:
It's all fun and games until someone raises the dead.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Can you see ghosts, like, all the time?"
Distributor:
Focus Features
Official Site:
paranorman.com
Release Date: August 17, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
November 27, 2012.

Synopsis: In ParaNorman, a small town comes under siege by zombies. Who can it call? Only misunderstood local boy Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is able to speak with the dead. In addition to the zombies, he'll have to take on ghosts, witches and, worst of all, moronic grown-ups, to save his town from a centuries-old curse. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Paranorman - Movie Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

5 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - November 27, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; DVD copy;Bonus View (PiP); BD-Live; Mobile features
Region Encoding: A, B

Universal's handling of ParaNorman in a 2.35:1-framed 1080p transfer surpasses the beauty of the fantastic-looking Coraline.  The vivid transfer is flawless. The artistry is simply amazing and all the fine details are present in the transfer.  Colors absolutely soak the screen with blasts of greens and moody blues.  Browns are majestic and purples are faultless. There is a nice environment surrounding the picture, too.  Streets are appropriately slicked and the level of filmic detail is immense.  The 5-channel DTS 5.1 track is filled with a wonderful sense of energy.  While thin in some parts, the audio environs are satisfying enough and do their very best to match the impressive visuals of the picture.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • You won’t even believe your ears.  The amount of work writers/directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell reveal and discuss in the commentary might tire you out.  Fully present, the two reveal just what it took to bring this film to life and they do it with great zeal.  It’s a great listen if you’ve got the time.

Special Features:

Fans will certainly gobble this release up.  Coming fully loaded with seriously interesting supplementals, Paranorman dives into the grave and offers fans of the picture some tasty ‘Making Of’ nuggets.  It kicks off with nine surprisingly extensive featurettes.  Fans are guided by Butler and Fell as they cover the following topics: "That's ParaNorman," "Creating a World," "Voicing ParaNorman," "Building Characters," "Making Faces," "Rigging the Game," "Bringing the Undead to Life," "Angry Aggie" and "Weird and Wonderful."  The release also serves up seven more short featurettes: "You Don't Become a Hero by Being Normal," "A Norman Childhood," "Playing as a Profession," "Making Norman," "This Little Light," "Have You Ever Seen a Ghost" and "The Zombies of ParaNorman" as they dissect more of the movie.  The set also includes a U-Control picture-in-picture track that is pretty cool as it brings everything together and also a digital copy of the film.

  • Peering Through the Veil (41 min)
  • Seven Making-Of Featurettes (15 min)
  • Preliminary Animatic Sequences (9 min)

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