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Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie

What She said:

She

I would love to, if only for a moment, see the world through Tim Burton-colored glasses.  We get a glimmer of how he perceives things through each of his movies—dark, quirky, and misunderstood.  Burton’s latest effort, the stop-motion animated flick, Frankenweenie, feels like classic Burton from beginning to finish.  Better than many of his most recent movies, it still has some flaws compared to the Burton we came to know and love with Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Batman.

Frankenweenie is based on Burton’s 1984 short by the same name.  It’s a homage to the classic Frankenstein story, with many overlapping elements, and also serves as a loose parody of the genre.  The story follows a young boy, Victor Frankenstein, who is somewhat withdrawn from school and friends, and instead prefers to spend his free time with his dog, Sparky.  Sparky is this cute little thing who absolutely adores Victor and wants nothing more than to follow him everywhere.  Unfortunately for Sparky, this spells his demise, as he follows Victor to a baseball game, chases after Victor’s homerun hit, runs into the street, and gets smushed.  Needless to say, Victor is devastated.  But he’s also a science genius who has been working on some pretty big things up in his parents’ attic.  Victor, inspired by his class science fair, and a somewhat controversial teacher, Mr. Rzykruski, sows up Sparky, taps into the power of the heavens, and electrocutes his dog back to life.  And it works, seemingly with few repercussions.  All you need is love, apparently.  Victor knows that he has to keep the new Sparky secret, and does his best, but soon the cat…er…dog is out of the bag and kids all over town are trying to bring a variety of animals back to life with dangerous results.  The situation very quickly turns into an all-out melee. 

Frankenweenie

As mentioned, Frankenweenie is made using Nightmare Before Christmas-style stop-motion animation.  But the technology seems to have come a long way since the ‘90s.  The animation in this film is absolutely crisp, so smooth that you’d take it for computer generated.  Also, the movie was filmed in black and white.  This is a cute homage to the monster-flick genre; however it looked a little post-production for my taste, not like a true black and white film.  The plot moves swiftly and, while familiar, is still interesting.  I’d say midway through the movie it takes a turn into the unknown as Burton begins to move the plot in a different direction from the classic tale.  What’s most endearing about this movie is the powerful relationship between Victor and his dog.  It’s a classic “boy and his dog” bond, an experience that so many kids encounter growing up, loving a pet for the first time and ultimately ending up having to deal with the tragedy of loss.  Victor does not deal with it well.  Clever he is, but also perhaps a little unhinged. 

The weakest part of this movie revolves around the auxiliary characters of the other schoolchildren.  Despite their importance in the later part of the film, they remain somewhat undeveloped, and become a little difficult to distinguish from one another.  That said, this is a children’s/family movie, so I think few would bother to notice or care.  Featuring the voice talents of Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Martin Landau, and Charlie Tahan, Frankenweenie is one of Tim Burton’s more respectable movies of recent memory.  It’s a fun ride, and visually splendid, despite being completely devoid of color.

Thumbs up.

Frankenweenie

 

What he said:

He

Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) is a very reclusive, but talented young man. He is an aspiring filmmaker and inventor. He doesn’t have any friends at school and is perfectly content with that. He prefers working on his projects – with the help of his dog Sparky – and sharing them with his parents. Victor seems genuinely happy with this setup.

This isn’t enough for his father though. Ben (Martin Short) is concerned about his son and thinks he would benefit getting out in the real world little more often. He is proud of his son’s accomplishments in science, but thinks he needs to do something a little more social. He convinces Victor to try baseball. Victor reluctantly agrees. He has a little beginners luck and actually hits a homerun. Unfortunately Sparky – who like most dogs enjoys chasing a ball – runs after it and is hit by a car.

Victor is devastated. His best friend was suddenly taken from him and he just wants to be left alone.
Time passes and Victor doesn’t seem to recuperate much. He just seems to be sulking through his daily life. He just wants to be with his friend again. If you are an animal lover, you can really identify with the little guy’s pain. Animals are great companionship and have such vibrant little personalities. If you give them just a little attention, they’ll reciprocate ten-fold.

Frankenweenie

Being that he loved his friend so much, he’s willing to do just about anything to get him back. So when he gets some inspiration from his science teacher (voiced by Martin Landau), he decides to attempt to bring Sparky back to life Frankenstein style. Much to his surprise, it actually works. He’s worried what others will think if they find out, so he keeps it a secret. That doesn’t last forever though and Sparky’s resurrection is discovered by classmate Edgar “E” Gore (voiced by Atticus Shaffer of The Middle). As his name suggest, E Gore is a creepy little thing straight out of a monster movie. He blackmails Victor into sharing his knowledge. Chaos and hilarity ensues when he’s unable to keep a secret and tells several other classmates. They all want a monster of their own at that point.

I get the impression that I was getting a little peek into Tim Burton’s life while watching this. Victor actually looks like a young Burton and he too had a dog growing up. I think Victor clearly represents what Burton himself wishes he could have done as a kid.

That and I think he was probably a really big monster movie fan growing up. The movie has some sad moments, but it’s also filled some laughs, as well as several nods to some classic monster movies. It’s a really wonderful little mix comedy, horror, and a touch of heart. He creates some neat little worlds in his movies. There’s some really dark elements to them, but I wouldn’t say they are outright horror movies. They are graphic or gory, but more like fairytale dark. His movies also tend to have some great humor to them too. They’re such a cool combination of a dark fairytale and comedy.  

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on January 15, 2013.