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ParaNorman (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

A young boy named Norman who can see and speak to the dead will have to use his powers to save his small town of Blithe Hollow from a centuries old witch's curse in this stop-motion animated horror comedy from LAIKA Studios.

ParaNorman is a stop-motion animated adventure that tells the strange tale of Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a young boy whose ability to speak with and see the dead has left him an outsider with his schoolmates and even with his own family. At school they call him “AbNorman”, and his father (Jeff Garlin) is at his wits end with his seemingly unhinged behavior. But Norman’s ability will soon be needed to help save his small town of Blithe Hollow from a centuries-old witch’s curse that leaves it under threat by zombies. Will Norman be able to rise to the occasion? He will need the help of unlikely allies like his obnoxious, popularity-obsessed older sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick), his only friend, the chubby Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) and Neil’s muscular but not too bright older brother Mitch (Casey Affleck), and his school tormentor, the cruel but dimwitted Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

Directed by Chris Butler (Missing Link) and Sam Fell (The Tale of Despereaux), ParaNorman blends 1950s creature feature horror with contemporary comedy and adventure in such a way that is crosses genres and generations, appealing to many different audiences. From the zombies and witches’ curses to the spooky graveyards or friendly spirits like Norman’s grandma just hanging out in the house, this one touches on so many different horror themes, but does it in a lighthearted way.

At the core of it, however, is the story of a kid trying to find his power, his voice, and his courage to stand on his own. That’s what makes the story of ParaNorman so engaging and heartfelt. When you pair this with the stunning visual work of LAIKA Studios’ stop-motion animation and visual effects, plus the empathetic score from Jon Brion, you get a thoroughly enjoyable and classic film.

The Video

The digital stills for ParaNorman were taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II in 5K. This edition is “newly restored” according to Shout! Factory. It comes to Blu-ray in AVC 1080p framed at 2.40:1. This is probably the strongest looking of these LAIKA Studios Editions from Shout! with Coraline coming in a very close second, just based on the vibrancy of the colors and the fantastic shadow detail and inky black levels. The primary colors and cool neon colors like glowing greens or electric blues really ‘pop’ in this release. Detail is also superb. One of the finest moments is when Norman first emerges from the dark tree line in the forest. The way you can see the texture of the leaves and the individual trees as the light slowly rises is breathtaking.

The Audio

ParaNorman has an awesome lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that has strong dynamic range and natural, solid sounding effects placed throughout the soundfield, with extended low-end and clear dialogue.

The Supplements

Like the other LAIKA Studios Editions, ParaNorman is loaded with new bonus features that will offer hours of information and entertainment. Do listen to the wonderful audio commentary and go through the featurettes on the puppets.

  • DVD with feature film and bonus features.
  • Commentary with writer/director Chris Butler and director Sam Fell
  • Inside LAIKA: Discovering the Characters and Effects of ParaNorman (1080p; 00:12:50)
  • Inside LAIKA: Revisiting the Puppets with LAIKA’s Animation Team (1080p):
    • Courtney Babcock (00:01:25)
    • Mitch (00:01:34)
    • Norman Babcock (00:01:59)
    • Neil (00:01:21)
    • Prenderghast (00:01:42)
    • Zombie Judge (00:02:09)
  • Feature-Length Storyboards
  • Peering Through the Veil: Behind the Scenes of ParaNorman (1080p; 00:40:41)
  • You Don’t Become a Hero by Being Normal (1080p; 00:02:43)
  • A Norman Childhood (1080p; 00:02:03)
  • Playing as a Profession (1080p; 1080p; 00:02:17)
  • Making Norman (1080p; 00:01:33)
  • This Little Light (1080p; 00:01:14)
  • Have You Ever Seen a Ghost? (1080p; 00:02:11)
  • The Zombies of ParaNorman (1080p; 00:02:13)
  • Still Galleries (1080p):
    • Character Art
    • Concept Art
    • Behind the Scenes
  • Trailers (1080P)
  • Booklet featuring essay by Bill Besowtiz, crafts & animation editor of IndieWire

The Final Assessment

Another brilliant LAIKA Studios release from Shout! Factory that looks and sounds great, this release of ParaNorman is one that I highly recommend should be scooped up, pronto!

ParaNorman (LAIKA Studios Edition) is out on Blu-ray September 14, 2021 from Shout! Factory


  • Rating Certificate: PG (for scary action and images, thematic elements, some rude humor and language)
  • Studios & Distributors: Focus Features | Laika Entertainment | Shout! Factory
  • Director: Chris Butler | Sam Fell
  • Written By: Chris Butler
  • Run Time: 92 Mins.
  • Street Date: 14 September 2021
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Secondary Audio: Spanish DTS 5.1 | French DTS 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH | Spanish | French
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