Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



A bit of a disappointment. I wanted to like this more than I did. It was fabulously made, and it’s real hard to believe that it was done in stop-action animation in these days of CGI. But it was, by a company here in Oregon. Hillsboro, to be precise, which is a few miles west of Portland, part of the metro area. And it is the first stop-action film to be made in 3D. Moving all the hundreds of elements on the faces and bodies of those little puppets on those small sets, adding in the background movements, getting the texture and lighting right … it is all so tedious. I don’t know how they manage it. Plus all the special effects … It took them about two years to complete.

The technological achievement here is also noteworthy. No one uses clay anymore for a thing like this, but here they used something brand new: 3D color printing. They say 3D printing will be a very big thing in our lives soon. It’s already beginning to show up here and there, the computers nerds are hard at work, and it still looks like a miracle to me. You design something—a machine part, a little mannequin, just about anything—in a computer, and then you press PRINT and the thing is squirted out, layer by layer, in plastic. Believe me, you’re going to see more of this. And now they can do it in color.

But the story was weak, the characters were pretty standard. Norman sees dead people, so he’s the class freak. He’s got a fat buddy who he doesn’t really want, but hangs around. Everybody around him is mean to him, never gives him a chance, including his parents and big sister. I’ll give the movie points for having the school bully eventually come around and help Norman deal with the zombies that have invaded the town. And some scenes with the mob of townspeople are funny, and sad. Mobs really do behave that way. And the zombies turn out to pretty pitiful, harmless, seeking only to die and remain dead. I liked that. But the story never really worked for me.

Also, I understand that animation is usually a form of caricature. Features are exaggerated, that’s cool. And yet, it seems that a lot of movies are going a bit overboard. (This is a criticism of the entire industry, even Pixar, not just this movie, though it is an offender.) The males and the females look like they belong to different species. The males either have a neck the size of my pinkie finger, or wider than my (too ample) waist. The females have arms the width of toothpicks, unless they’re grossly obese. I’d like to see a little more imagination here. Huh, guys?

One point in its favor … all through the movie the big sister (Anna Kendrick, who was so wonderful in Up in the Air) has the hots for the muscle-bound, brainless jock. At the end she makes her play for him, and he tells her he’d like to bring his boyfriend along. He’s gay! Naturally, that didn’t sit too well in the festering swamplands of the Right, such as the National Review, which had a column about it. You know what, National Review? You can suck my cock.