But while Coraline sustained a masterful level of Grimm-like creepiness, ParaNorman is only fitfully brilliant.
The premise is promising. Eleven-year-old Norman Babcock (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee, Let Me In) has a familiar problem: He sees dead people. Lots of em, actually, which makes him something of a pariah in the hamlet of Blithe Hollow, Mass. His only pal is Neil (Tucker Albrizzi, TVs Good Luck Charlie), a chubby kid who isnt thrown off by Normans frequent conversations with the dearly departed.
Boasting a casket full of horror-flick references, ParaNorman tosses its prepubescent hero into some mumbo-jumbo about the town being cursed by an 18th-century witch, and Norman being the only one to stop it. The escalating dread fuels some wonderfully grotesque sight gags involving decaying zombies and sundry stubborn corpses, and Jon Brions music score adds beautifully to the weirdness.
The script proves less successful.
ParaNorman conjures up mood galore, but the script by Chris Butler, who directs here with Sam Fell (The Tale of Despereaux), settles for thin characterization and a storyline that seems like a patchwork of other movies. Lovely animation and strong voice work from the likes of Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Anna Kendrick and John Goodman almost makes you forget youve seen this all before.
One final note, parents: Dont be lulled by the PG rating. Some scenes might be a bit too scary for the smallest moviegoers.