ParaNorman is a 2012 American stop-motion animation comedy horror movie. It was directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler. The film was generally well received by critics and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award for Best Animated Film. However, ParaNorman was only a moderate box office success, having been made on a budget of $60 million, it went on to earn $107 million. It was rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for its themes, some scary images and some rude humor and language.
The film centers around the character of a young boy named Norman Babcock. Norman has the ability to communicate with the dead, he is able to see, hear and speak to ghosts. Most people in Norman's town, both adults and children, do not believe in his ability. He is ridiculed by most of the other children at his school and even the other members of his own family do not understand him. However, when a curse, supposedly placed on the town by a witch three hundred years earlier, causes zombies to rise from the grave, Norman is the only one who can put things right.
Norman Babcock lives with his parents and his older sister Courtney in the small town of Blythe Hollow. The town's major claim to fame is that a woman was hanged there for being a witch in the year 1712. As a result, many businesses in the town have the word "witch" in their names and images of witches appear all over Blythe Hollow, including a statue representing the witch who was executed, depicted as an ugly old hag, which stands in front of the town hall. According to legend, the witch placed a curse on the judge and six jurors who condemned her to death, causing them to die soon afterwards, condemning their souls to damnation and causing their bodies to rise as the living dead.
The film opens with Norman talking to his grandmother, who is asking her grandson to explain what is going on in a zombie movie to her. It is revealed soon afterwards that Norman's grandmother died some time ago and that Norman is the only one in the family who can see her ghost. Norman not only sees and hears the ghost of his grandmother but those of a great many other people and animals too. As he walks along the street, he greets all the ghosts that he meets. Consequently, most of the people in the town think that he is strange. Even Norman's family are worried by his behavior, especially his father who does not want the boy to turn out like Mr. Prenderghast, Norman's "crazy uncle" on his mother's side of the family. Norman is shunned by most of the other children at his school and is bullied by some, chief amongst them being a boy named Alvin. The only child who wants to be Norman's friend is an overweight boy named Neil. He is bullied also and thinks of Norman as a kindred spirit.
As well as seeing ghosts, Norman has recently begun seeing images of the town's past, at the time of the witch's trial as well. He sees one during a rehearsal for a school play about the witch's hanging. After school, Norman is approached by his uncle, Mr. Prenderghst, who also has the ability to communicate with the dead. Mr. Prenderghast, who knows that he is dying, tells Norman that the story of the witch's curse is true and that Norman will have to take over his duty of protecting the town from it. Mr. Prenderghast dies later at home.
During the performance of the play, Norman once again sees a vision of the witch's trial. He makes a fool of himself in public by screaming out, "The dead are coming!". As a result, his father orders him to stop pretending to be in contact with ghosts and tells him that he is grounded. Norman's mother explains his father's seemingly mean behavior by saying that he is simply scared about what could happen to the boy.
The following day, Mr. Prenderghast's ghost appears to Norman. He tells the boy that he will have to take a book from his house that is in the hands of his dead body. Only by reading from the book at the witch's grave that night, the anniversary of the witch's execution, will Norman be able to prevent the zombies of the judge and jury who condemned the witch from rising. That evening, while Norman's parents are out, the boy sneaks out to his uncle's house. With some difficulty, Norman recovers the book, goes to the cemetery and finds the graves of the seven victims of the witch's curse.
In his rush to get to the cemetery, Norman knocks over Alvin, who is trying to impress two girls with his dancing skills. To get his revenge, Alvin follows Norman to the graveyard and interrupts Norman as he reads from the book. Norman is surprised to find that what he is reading is not a spell but the story of "Sleepin Beauty". His reading has no affect. A strange storm, which resembles a witch's face, forms in the sky and the zombies rise from their graves.
Having noticed that her brother is missing, Norman's sister goes to his friend Neil's house to look for the boy. Neil tells her that Norman is not there because he had to go to the graveyard. Coutney, Neil and Neil's older brother Mitch go in search of Norman in Mitch's van. They find Norman and Alvin but the van is attacked by one of the zombies. In order to find out why reading from the book did not prevent the witch's curse from taking effect, Neil suggests that they telephone a clever girl named Selma. Selma tells them that the witch was not buried in the graveyard because she was not considered human. She tells Norman that he may find a record of her burial at the town hall.
Meanwhile, the zombies arrive in town. The people of Blythe Hollow quickly find weapons and begin attacking the zombies, although nothing that they do has any real effect on the undead beings.
Norman, Neil, Courtney, Mitch and Alvin break into the town hall and try, without success, to find documentation of the witch's burial in the hall of records. After some time, Norman's companions give up. He tells them to leave and says that he can go on without their help. However, although they leave the room, Neil, Courtney, Mitch and Alvin are unable to get out of the building. The zombies have been seen entering the town hall and an angry mob has begun attacking it.
The witch's face appears in the sky above the town hall. Norman climbs onto a tower on the roof and begins to read the story of "Sleeping Beauty" to her. She causes him to fall back down into the hall of records, knocking him unconscious.
While Norman is unconscious, he has a vision of the witch's trial. He finds out that the witch's name was Agatha Prenderghast and that she was only a girl, no older than Norman himself. Like Norman, she also had the ability to communicate with the dead. As a result, the people of Blythe Hollow were afraid of her and falsely accused her of witchcraft.
When Norman comes to, he finds the seven zombies standing in front of him. Norman's ability to communicate with the dead means that he is the only one who can understand the zombies. The judge admits to Norman that he made a mistake in condemning Agatha to death and that he needs Norman's help. Norman realizes that by reading from the book he would simply be telling Agatha a bedtime story to put her to sleep for another year and not be breaking the curse. He wants to put an end to it permanently instead.
Norman leads the seven zombies out of the town hall. His sister Courtney joins him to prevent the mob from attacking him and insists that the people listen to him. Neil, Mitch and Alvin soon join her. Norman explains that the zombies never had any intention of attacking the people of Blythe Hollow. Their curse was that they would be misunderstood and feared by the people of the town just as they had misunderstood and feared Agatha Prenderghast. To put an end to the curse once and for all, Norman's parents, who have just returned to town, agree to let the zombie judge get into their car and direct them to where Agatha was buried.
Having arrived near the place in the forest where Agatha's unmarked grave is located, Norman speaks to her. Instead of telling her the story of "Sleeping Beauty" he tells Agatha her own life story. Agatha is angry at first but Norman tells her that by continuing to be angry after three hundred years, she is behaving no better than the people who condemned her. He gets her to remember the pleasant memories of people who were nice to her. Agatha finally finds peace and moves on to the afterlife. The zombies disappear.
Norman becomes the town hero. Alvin, who once bullied him, now boasts about how close they are. Although he cannot see or hear her, Norman's father accepts that the ghost of his mother, Norman's grandmother, is in the house and speaks to her also.
- Norman Babcock - Kodi Smit-McPhee
- Norman's father - Jeff Garlin
- Norman's mother - Leslie Mann
- Norman's sister Coutney - Anna Kendrick
- Mr. Prenderghast - John Goodman
- Neil - Tucker Albrizzi
- Mitch - Casey Affleck
- Alvin - Christopher Mintz-Plaase
- Salma - Hannah Noyes
- Agatha Prenderghast - Jodelle Ferland
- The Judge - Bernard Hill
- Norman's grandmother's ghost - Elaine Stritch