"ParaNorman": Critics weigh in on new stop-motion film

This film image released by Focus Features shows the character Norman, voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee, in the 3D stop-motion film, "ParaNorman." (AP Photo/Focus Features)
AP Photo/Focus Features
Norman, voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee, is seen here in the 3D stop-motion film, "ParaNorman."
AP Photo/Focus Features

(CBS News) The 3-D stop-motion comedy thriller, "ParaNorman," hits theaters today, with hopes of providing entertainment for children and adults alike.

In the film, when a small town is taken over by zombies, a "misunderstood" boy Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) uses his skill to speak with the dead. In addition to zombies, he ends up taking on ghosts, witches, and even grown-ups, to save his town from a centuries-old curse.

"ParaNorman" also features the voices of Casey Affleck, Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann and Jeff Garlin. The film marks the second stop-motion flick from Laika, the creators of the 2009 Oscar-nominated "Coraline."

Rotten Tomatoes, the film review aggregator site, gave "ParaNorman" an 84 percent rating. Many critics praise the "ParaNorman" for its visuals, but some have criticized the plot. One reviewer called it as "slow as a corpse." Take a look below:

Tom Long of The Detroit News gave it a B+: "From its classic horror-flick opening to its Frankenstein-mob scenes, the film is constantly referencing the scare genre, but its look is more gonzo than gory Everything from the cars to the homes to characters' faces is at slightly odd angles, yet when 'Paranorman' wants to calm down and be beautiful, it can be lovely indeed. Yes, very young kids may be frightened (not to mention confused); but chances are most kids, and most adults, will find 'Paranorman' perfectly horrible in the best possible way."

Colin Covert of Minneapolis Star-Tribune: "Humor depends on character, context and continuity, none of which is in abundant supply in 'ParaNorman.' The item in question is an occult-themed kiddie movie that aims for a Tim Burtonesque blend of giggles and chills, missing both by a long shot. It has some elements of graphic interest. The opening and end titles are treasure troves of retro-spooky typefaces, and the action in between is filmed in funky stop-motion. What is missing are the plot and personalities that would make us care. Also, jokes."

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone: "What starts as a harmless spin through Sixth Sense territory escalates into a full-out zombie war, led by a 300-year-old witch (Jodelle Ferland). Brit screenwriter Chris Butler and his co-director, Sam Fell, lace the fun and fright with keen visual wit. And they don't back off tough themes such as loneliness and death. My advice? Just go with ParaNorman. There's magic in it."

Joe Neumaier of The New York Daily News gives the film two stars: "The 12-year-old boys who go to see "ParaNorman" -- and who are the only ones who might enjoy it -- should double up on the sugary treats to stay awake during this gorgeous-looking but zombi-fied stop-motion animated creep show. It's as slow as a corpse, and half as interesting."

Betsey Sharkey of The Los Angeles Times: Like the undead, animated movies are best when they're under control. "ParaNorman," a dark and slightly dotty 3-D fable about a boy who communes with the dearly and not so dearly departed, sometimes gets a little out of hand, especially at the end. Even so, it may be the most fun you'll have with ghosts and zombies all year. It's a spooky twist on the typical

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times: "The story, an amusing if not especially fresh tale involving a witch and some Puritans, is principally a vehicle for the movie's meticulously detailed pictorial beauty, which turns each scene into an occasion for discovery and sometimes delight."