Directors: Chris Butler and Sam Fell
Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, Casey Affleck, John Goodman, Jeff Garlin
Keep the little pre-school-aged kids away from ParaNorman, unless you want to promote night terrors. Though its anti-bullying, wholly positive story (about forgiveness and finding one's purpose in life) is meant to uplift, not petrify, this magnificent achievement in stop-motion animation is decidedly too grown-up for wee lads.
Blame that on the shared affinity for, and readiness to pay homage to, classic horror films on display courtesy of filmmakers Chris Butler and Sam Fell. Nightmarish-looking zombies stumble about, corpses are used for sight gags, and the olden days' practice of executing women thought to be witches is the basis for the script's villainous sub-plot. Yeah, ParaNorman is a bit darker than, say, Ice Age.
More importantly, though, it's also stronger in the originality department, striking a delicate balance between adult horror and child-friendly wonder. Also worthy of praise is the fact that its protagonist, the kind-hearted, spirit-seeing Norman (voiced with heartfelt conviction by Let Me In's Kodi Smit-McPhee), is a well-realized, multifaceted triumph of a kiddie character offering something more than aww-shucks naivety. If not for the little girl at the center of this countdown's top-ranked film, Smit-McPhee's Norman would rank as the summer's most inspiring hero.