**½/**** Image A Sound A Extras B
screenplay by Chris Butler & Sam Fell
directed by Chris Butler
by Walter Chaw Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) can see and speak with ghosts, which, if you squint a little, is only a metaphor for the kind of sensitivity that, in a boy, will invariably lead to about a decade of being brutalized by his disconnected male peer group. (Everything will change once he invents Microsoft or Pixar.) Norman's chief tormentor is barely-verbal Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, already past his sell-by date); his shallow and image-obsessed teenaged sister with a heart of gold™ is Courtney (the awesome Anna Kendrick), who has the hots for the captain of the football team, pre-verbal Mitch (Casey Affleck); and Norman's best friend, whether he likes it or not, is Mitch's weird, fat little brother, Neil (Tucker Albrizzi). The first problem of ParaNorman is that, in its rush to be sensitive to intelligent outcasts like Norman and Neil, it dehumanizes and mocks its tormentors, robbing them of the depth and complexity that would have resulted in a better film than this beautifully-wrought, entirely predictable package. (It's like a jack-in-the-box made by Faberge.) The only moment in which one of these "inside" characters is given any kind of depth (it's Mitch) is used as a sort of sitcom punchline that doesn't lend the moment gravity so much as it continues the road of taking sloppy aim at an easy target.
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