“I see dead people.”
This time it’s not Haley Joel Osment using the phrase as he did in the 1999 smash The Sixth Sense, but they are the words used by an 11-year-old boy called Norman in Paranorman.
Voiced by Kodi-Smit McPhee, famous for his role in The Road, Norman cuts the sad, lonely figure of a boy who has shunned the normal friendship of school pals in favour of using his ability to communicate with the disembodied ghouls which occupy his neighbourhood.
Of course, he is obsessed with Zombie films and all things associated with them.
However, when a great responsibility is bestowed upon him that involves the very thing he is almost fanatical about, he discovers some things really do go bump in the night and those things aren’t very pleasant.
The biggest problem with this brilliantly animated film is that by the end of it I found that it was of more interest to me than it was to that of my children.
Sure, like me, they laughed out loud at several moments and it kept us all interested but it wasn’t funny enough for long enough periods.
These days animated films have to have all the key ingredients to make it enjoyable for the whole family; a well-balanced storyline to keep the viewer interested but not bored, consistent slapstick humour, good effects, and a little “older” humour also helps for the adults.
The underlying anti-bullying story is a bit too hidden for children to understand and as a consequence the lack of consistently funny moments leaves it wanting against better recent releases which also use the comedy-horror template, such as Frankenweenie and the superb Hotel Transylvania.
The other important feature I find regularly present with good quality animated movies is that of famous actors’ voices.
Shrek had them, as did the Toy Story films, and aside from John Goodman’s voice (which is the best) this element is lacking from what could have been an outstanding family film.