Paranorman started as an interesting, average movie I might have rented. When I left the theatre, it was up with Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers as some of the most entertaining cinema of the year.
At first glance, Paranorman is a cookie cutter alt-teen horror story. It's got all the tell tale signs: claymation, zombies, a loner hero, and plenty of so-so humor. But with some stunning visuals, a relatively edgy script and enjoyable voice acting, it becomes a movie with some punch.
Kodi Smit-McPhee plays Norman, an odd kid with the gift of gab... with dead people. Within the first ten minutes of meeting the main character, you notice a tinge of originality and quality to the film you may not have expected: Norman is portrayed (through voice and animation) as a real kid. He's not your overdone loner. He IS social, he's just tired of trying. He isn't jaded, he has a good grasp on the world.
Norman has a chance encounter with the over-the-top creepy Mr. Prenderghast (hillariously portrayed by John Goodman) when a curse comes to light: a witch is on her way to raise the dead and torment his town.
Paranorman is surprisingly story-heavy; you get a strong feel for the characters, how they interact, and by the end you care more for Norman than you do most characters like him.
Among some of the highlights that set ParaNorman apart include heavy morals (terrorism, prejudice and cruelty), an awkward love story between Norman's sister Courtney and Mitch (brilliantly dimwitted acting by Casey Affleck), and an incredibly shocking hint at the end to a rather adult point.
Speaking of which, a quick story: one character at the end hints vaguely at their homosexuality. That's right, not something you would expect but something fun to watch an audience soak in. It serves as a hilarious twist to a subplot near the end, and should be commended for its bravery.
Overall, ParaNorman is a surprisingly heavy and entertaining flick, beautifully animated and full of delightfully morbid moments and morals.