Chris Butler and Sam Fell's animated feature ParaNorman is in the class of recent "children's" films that aren't really for youngsters. They're actually for adults with unresolved Daddy or Mommy issues, memories of classroom bullying or the sudden death of a loved one that open up torrents of regret. Child actor Kodi Smith-McPhee (The Road and Let Me In) voices the title character Norman, a reclusive boy who sees and talks to ghosts (yes, he sees dead people). This gift -- and not his spiky hair or lugubrious manner -- has turned him into an outcast at home, at school and on the streets of his little New England town that was cursed after torching an innocent girl as a witch back in colonial times. The colonists' horrible deed comes back to haunt them every year as the disquieted spirit of the murdered girl comes to raise hell. Despite the spooky goings-on, the story is chockful of important stuff about intolerance, mob rule and familial dysfunction, most of which will fly over the heads of the young ones in the audience. Smartly, Fell and Butler, who wrote the screenplay, wrap the lessons in beautfiully construted scenes that pop even in tired old 2-D, which will delight the rugrats and not get in the way of their parents' appreciation of the film's wholesome message. Recommended.


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