I tried freeform but it doesn't seem to work that well.
It does, but it requires patience to master and of course you might consider FreeForm Pro for better performance. And not to sound like a marketing machine, if it's really all about bendy deformations, I might even have something for you to facilitate the process even further with FFProbased on expressions. Other alternatives could include good old Card Dance, Trapcode Particular and Form and surely there must be some way to fake it with native 3D layers and some clever expression rigging, too. Really depends, but I guess it's one more of those cases, where you either have to sit down and work it out on your own or realyl spend a bit of money, which may be completely worthwile, if this is a bigegr project or a regular task you are going to do many times over and over... >self-promo mode off< In any case, I'm not aware of a better alternative then FFPro, even more so, as paper due to its unique deformation behavior would even not be easy to fake in a 3D program...
Freeform is probably your best option right now. There may be other solutions on the horizon. It might work best if you break the person up into elements through copying and masking rather than use the entire body as a "paper doll." I wouldn't know for sure unless I saw a screenshot or two.
Speaking of paper people... Take a look at this amazing effort:
Here's a piece I did a few years ago with paper-style puppetry. While there's not a lot of warping going on, it shows that lighting and depth of field can be used quite effectively to enhance the sense of depth and miniature scale.
Stupid record company has disabled embedding, so you'll have to click through, sorry.