"I see dead people" may be the most famous line from The Sixth Sense, but it's also the impetus for the movie ParaNorman, a stop-motion animated film about adventure, bullying, and friendship. And zombies.

Life is rough for Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a spiky-haired kid living in the town of Blythe Hollow. Norman sees and talks with dead people, from his deceased grandmother (Elaine Stritch) to a variety of folks on his walk to school. (Norman also loves horror movies, though the movie doesn't say if this began before or after his talking with the dead began.) Unfortunately, Norman's gift also makes him an outcast. He's bullied by Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and called "Abnorman" by the other students. At home, he's berated by his teen sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick), told by his father Perry (Jeff Garlin) how disappointing he is, and poorly consoled by his worried mom Sandra (Leslie Mann). Norman's only real friend is Neil (Tucker Abrizzi), a cheerful fat kid who isn't bothered by insults.

But strange things are brewing in Blithe Hollow. It's the 300th aniversary of the witch Aggie by the founders of Blithe Hollow, and Norman's weird uncle Mr. Prenderghast (John Goodman) has been responsible for keeping Aggie from returning. But when he dies, his ghost passes on the duty to Norman. Unfortunately reading from the book doesn't work, and soon seven colonial American zombies are shambling around the town, an angry mob is forming, and the witch's visage appears in the storm that grows bigger and more powerful. Can Norman, Neil, Neil's dumb jock brother Mitch (Casey Affleck), Courtney (who has a crush on Mitch) and Alvin (who has a crush on Courtney) put an end to the supernatural events? Or will the witch's curse destroy the town?

ParaNorman is a Halloween movie (the events take place at Halloween; throughout the town witches and the supernatural are used as tourist traps) released at the end of the summer. It's enjoyable at times, and too simplistic at other times. There are some very nice touches, from the cheap zombie movie Norman watches at the beginning, to a few clever horror movie references, to a surprise about one character at the end. However, most of the characters are caricatures, from the overly-dramatic drama teacher to the quickly-formed angry mob who blame Norman for all the problems. The animation is pretty good (from the same people who gave us the creepy Coraline) and the voice talent is fine, but ParaNorman never quite makes the leap from kiddie humor to humor that works for both kids and adults. It's an entertaining movie, but it could have been quite a bit more than it is.

Overall grade: B-

Reviewed by James Lynch

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