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paranormanI hated Coraline. It was well-received by critics and audiences, even grabbing an Oscar nomination.

I wasn’t looking forward to LAIKA, the animation company that made it, reteaming with Focus Features. It’s their second stop-motion animated feature that’s in 3D, although I saw it in 2D. I regret that, because I can imagine some of these visuals being amazing in 3D, since I thought they were stunning as they were.

The story is about a kid named Norman that’s bullied in his small town. That town has the anniversary of a witch trial coming up, and the “witch” that was executed is coming back to raise some hell (literally). The movie is PG, and for good reason. It’s not appropriate for the younger ones.

Norman has a nerdy best friend, an attractive sister that’s a ditzy cheerleader, an uncle that claims to talk to the dead (but is the town drunk), and a dad that doesn’t care much for him or his hobbies. As he’s overheard telling his wife “I thought being sensitive meant writing poetry and being bad at team sports – not this!”

The parents are voiced wonderfully by Leslie Mann and Jeff Garlin. He cracks me up in everything (especially Curb Your Enthusiasm). Watching him perform at The Comedy Store in La Jolla, while he spent 15 minutes making fun of my friends sweater, is one of the highlights I have at a comedy show.

The voices provided by John Goodman, Tempestt Bledsoe, and Bernard Hill were great, but I didn’t care for Casey Affleck and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (although it is nice that McLovin was cast against type).

I enjoyed the fact that Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a horror-film freak. This gives the clever animation techniques an opportunity to pay tribute to cheesy old horror films you see on TV; and a grandmother opening the film with a great line about them “ruining their appetites” if they keep eating all those brains.

I give a lot of credit to writer/director Chris Butler for making such a fun story. It’s not just relying on the visuals, and aside from the 3rd act, the film is a blast.

I can sit here now and think of 20 different lines that made me laugh. One involved the sister complaining on the phone to her friend about zombies that are chasing her. She says something along the lines of “I’m gonna be bitten and start eating peoples brains. And I’m, like, vegan.”

There were trailers before this for the latest Tim Burton movie. This is a movie Burton wishes he could do.

It gets 4 out of 5 stars.