ParaNorman ★★★★

I was thoroughly impressed when I first watched Coraline - which did a fantastic job of blending adult-level creepiness with child-level approachability in a moral-based narrative. But it didn't nail it for me - it might have also been largely the fault of 3D, which took a "wait for a second while your eye focuses on this thing that's not touching the frame bounds" approach which got in the way of proper immersion. But I digress.

ParaNorman had none of these faults. This film is a visual wonder - Tristan Oliver (who also photographed Fantastic Mr. Fox) meticulously composes his shots, and he and the crew do a masterful job of lighting miniature sets in a way that I've never seen done. The world of Paranorman looks and feels more immersive than CG seems able to achieve. I've heard many people comment that they didn't "like the animation style" of ParaNorman (or Caroline, Chicken Run, or any other clay-mation film), but if you can't admire the level of cratsfmanship and true artistry in LAIKA's near-perfect execution of this medium, I really think you need to give your head a shake.

The performances are superb, with many recognizable - but never incongruous - voice actors filling in the quirky world of Blithe Hollow. The script is equally funny and eery, and the balance of comedy and tension is really well done. The visual effects are seamlessly blended and, when paired with claymation, don't feel like something I've seen before - the effects seem grounded in the unique world of ParaNorman.

My only minor beef is with the balance of Jon Brion's original score with the edit. At times it seems discordant with the visuals, feeling a bit like watching old Walt Disney cartoons where the score seems to try and find beats within the animation. This may have something to do with the way claymation is shot, or perhaps has something more to do with the more traditional arrangement of the score itself, but either way it falls a bit short in some of the slower parts of the film.

I loved ParaNorman, and while I've still somehow managed to not see Wreck It Ralph, I wouldn't be surprised to see this one take home an Oscar among all other films in its category. It's certainly deserving of one.

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