Directed by: Tim Burton
Cast: Charlie Tahan, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Tom Kenny
Running Time: 1 hr 27 mins
Due Out: January 8, 2013
PLOT: After his beloved dog Sparky suddenly passes, young Victor (Tahan) brings him back to life with lightning.
WHO’S IT FOR? Being familiar with Tim Burton’s shades of morbidity, regardless of one’s age, helps the process of at least “accepting” Frankenweenie. Outsiders will find this story to be impossibly strange; those who know Burton will find it par for a cuter course.
Though Tim Burton has made a coffin full of films about the liveliness of death, his interest with such a topic has rarely gone beyond childish fascination; toying with the the rules of life and death with curiosity, and perhaps wrapping it up with a little love story (Dark Shadows is his most recent example). As a great movie critic (now deceased, but probably still haunting theaters) once mentioned, Burton is definitely a production designer of a director, he certainly isn’t someone viewers can turn to for challenging narratives. No, it is all about the look. Like other high-profile directors such Michael Bay, Burton continually provides his audience (and especially his niche) a specific look viewers can always count on him to make.
Which brings us to Frankenweenie, a reasonably swift bonding of his adolescent curiosity about death with a hunky dory story of a boy and his dead dog. And since that dog is so innocent, and this boy’s tale earnest, Frankenweenie does achieve a cuteness to its repeated theme. The film is also carried by mini dialogue-less moments, such as whenever Sparky is on his own.
Burton shows to still have an inspired beating heart for death with the little things in his movie, like the brief appearance of Dracula, the story’s original short film opening, and even the casting of previously used actors like Martin Landau and Winona Ryder. One can tell that this isn’t just a short film Burton is resurrecting for automatic storytelling, it’s certainly a project that has significance to not-often-seen parts of him.
Aside from Victor and Sparky, the film is populated by side characters as well, who fulfill Burton’s depth into characters, which is surface level – he designs them like other people design costumes, with characters finding their distinction in their loud appearances more than their personality. For however fleeting their presence, they are amusing caricatures of stereotypes.
Frankenweenie is a Tim Burton snack, something that will likely thrill his admirers, and make for painless viewings for those who aren’t. It is most of all, however, a visual triumph. The film’s black-and-white stop motion animation makes Burton’s latest worth the look alone.
In a very hit-and-miss filmography, Frankenweenie is one of Burton’s more charged films. It shows that, like Corpse Bride before it, his filmmaking of toying with every element in order to achieve a certain gothic expression is perhaps right at home with stop motion animation.
MOVIE SCORE: 7/10
Original short “Captain Sparky vs. The Flying Saucers”
Miniatures In Motion: Bringing Frankenweenie to Life
Original Live-Action Frankenweenie short
Frankenweenie Touring Exhibit
Plain White T’s “Pet Sematary” Music Video
Digital Copy of Frankenweenie