An eye-popping exercise in stop motion animation, ParaNorman draws upon the influence of several iconic horror films to tell the story a fragile, alienated boy who does battle with ghosts, zombies, and all kinds of other spooky creatures. While the film’s prioritizing of style over substance yields visually impressive results, these achievements only highlight the shortcomings of its script (by co-director Chris Butler). The film is written to offer maximum visual opportunity, rather than a story of originality or substance. The characters are all plagued by predictable, one-note personalities (the bumbling father, the ditzy sister, etc.) and a surprising number of the jokes fall flat. Of course, the filmmakers can always fall back on the classic animation defense—the target audience is children, who won’t necessarily notice the clichés and other dramatic shortcomings—but this seems insufficient in a time when most animated films navigate these challenges far more nimbly. That said, ParaNorman seems destined to provide Halloween eye candy for years to come, even if it can’t quite command the full attention of its audience.
The transfer on Universal’s ParaNorman Blu-ray is excellent, capturing the film’s rich colour palette and sharp detail. The DVD and the Blu-ray include commentary by Butler and co-director Sam Fell, nine revealing featurettes (totaling 41 minutes), and preliminary animatic sequences. As an added bonus, the Blu-ray includes seven additional featurettes (totaling 15 minutes), a U-Control picture-in-picture track, a copy of the DVD, a Digital Copy, and Ultraviolet cloud access to the film.