The peaceful New England town of Blithe Hollow is nearing the 300th anniversary of its crowning achievement: executing Agatha Prenderghast (Jodelle Ferland), a witch. It is ingrained in the townspeople and they revel in the celebration. There are witch-named stores down Main Street, banners strewn across town announcing the impending celebration, and a hideous statue of the crone outside the town hall. The school is putting on a play/musical about the event, written, produced, and directed by an overly enthusiastic drama teacher (Alex Borstein) who wants her cast to "inhabit the role".
Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee), the loner/social outcast just doesn't seem to care. But Norman can see and talk to ghosts. He also has a love for zombie/horror films, as evidenced by his numerous posters, action figures, alarm clock, and toothbrush. But nobody gets or is willing to understand Norman. His parents, more his dad (Jeff Garlin) than his mom (Leslie Mann), want him to stop talking to dead people. His cheerleader sister (Anna Kendrick) is too involved in the high school world of boys, cheerleading, gossip, and nail-painting to care. His dead grandma (Elaine Stritch) is sticking around because her unfinished business is to care for Norman, as they were close in life, and because she would miss aspects of the material world. Norman's only friend is Neil (Tyler Albrizzi), the token chubby kid who has oddly high self-esteem. However, it comes down to Norman to save the day when his estranged and sickly uncle (John Goodman) bestows upon him the mission to save the town from the return of Agatha and the seven townspeople she cursed.
Laika's second stop-motion feature follows Coraline, their 2009 feature-length debut, also employs a 3D printer to create the character faces, a first for stop-motion. It's also a first for the directing team of Sam Fell (previously directed The Tale of Despereaux and Flushed Away, among others) and Chris Butler (directorial debut; also wrote the script). While the film was shot in 3D, which adds depth and some pop-out gags, I'd advise go early for lower 3D ticket prices, or just go 2D.
The film, while light on plot, is carried along by the exploration of fear and what it does to people. There are also a handful of horror references and numerous bits of dialog that, while going over the heads of the younger audience, are sure to amuse the older crowd.
Rating: A-/9 out of 10 stars