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Rated PG · 93 min. · 2012
Paranorman (PG) The oddball protagonist here is Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a middle-schooler in the town of Blithe Hollow fascinated with zombies, horror movies, and other stuff that would generally have counselors watching him very closely. But there's a reason for Norman's singular obsessions: He sees dead people, including his grandmother (Elaine Stritch) with whom he still converses as she sits on the living room sofa. Naturally, Norman's strange behavior makes him a target of bullies like classmate Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), but it also makes him the one person who might be able to save the town when a long-promised curse threatens to come to pass, turning loose on the locals the undead residents who sentenced a "witch" to death in colonial times. Directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell, working with wonderful stop-motion production designer Nelson Lowry (Fantastic Mr. Fox), create a uniquely cock-eyed world in Blithe Hollow, with its kitschy witch-themed stores and creepy woods, as well as a delightful prologue poking fun at low-budget horror movies. Add a handful of appealing supporting voice performances — including Anna Kendrick as Norman's teenage sister and Tucker Albrizzi as a good-natured classmate who becomes Norman's one reliable friend — and you've got a lively piece of entertainment. But the heart of the story, scripted by Butler, is an exploration of bullying that's startlingly complex. The mockery that Norman endures as a result of being "weird" isn't unusual in the kid-flick universe, but there's an edge to the way the film looks at how people, including Norman's own parents, handle their interactions with a person they just don't understand. —Scott Renshaw
Official Site: paranorman.com
Director: Chris Butler and Sam Fell
Writer: Chris Butler
Producer: Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner
Cast: Leslie Mann, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John Goodman, Casey Affleck, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Bernard Hill, Jeff Garlin, Tempestt Bledsoe and Elaine Stritch

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