It seems crazy, but animated films may be the best way within the movies to tackle mature themes.

How else can a movie make us deal with subjects such as death and bullying without coming off like an

After School Special

?

ParaNorman

tackles those themes and more while still supplying fart jokes, zombie dismemberment gags and a clever blink-and-you-miss-it approval of equal rights.

Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee, better than he was in

The Road or Let Me In

) can see and communicate with ghosts. That makes him an outcast and a subject of bullying from Alvin (the bullied-in-other-movies Christopher Mintz-Plasse), his family and the whole town.

However, Norman’s town has a curse that threatens to destroy it and, of course, only he can stop it. What starts as an animated

The Sixth Sense

becomes a clever joke-filled romp with surprisingly effective dramatic overtones.

When Norman confronts the movie’s baddie, the animation is terrific and super intense. The sound design will blow you to the back of the theater. There’s a reason

ParaNorman

is PG.

There’s also excellent voice work from Anna Kendrick, Tempestt Bledsoe (Vanessa Huxtable!) and John Goodman.

Watch through the end credits to see how the animation was done.

Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell / With Kodi Smit-McPhee, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and John Goodman. Regal Santa Fe Stadium 14, PG, 93 min.