Frankenweenie * * * *

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Director: Tim Burton.
Screenplay: John August.
Voices: Charlie Tahan, Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau, Atticus Shaffer, Robert Capron, Conchata Ferrell, James Hiroyuki Liao, Dee Bradley Baker, Frank Welker.

Tim Burton has occasionally been involved in animated movies throughout his career, having served as producer on “The Nightmare Before Christmas“, “James & The Giant Peach” and “9“. However, the only time he’s actually been behind the camera on any of them was “Corpse Bride” in 2005 and his animated short in 1984 “Frankenweenie” – of which this is a feature length expansion of. Some may feel that he’s treading old ground here but there’s no doubt that this is still a highly successful endeavour.

Victor Frankenstein is a lonely young boy who’s best friend is his energetic dog, Sparky. When Sparky is run over and killed by a car, Victor is devastated but he refuses to give up hope of spending time with his beloved friend again. Inspired by his science teacher, he decides to rig up a laboratory and harness the lightning to bring Sparky’s corpse back to life. His attempts are successful but it soon causes havoc within his neighbourhood.

Burton has came in for a critical panning from many people of late (myself included). The major issue being his seeming inability to change his idiosyncratic style. With this latest venture into stop-motion animation, he has answered his critics with aplomb and it makes you wonder whether he even should change his approach when the results can be as good as this. Here, his gothic idiosyncrasies are entirely suited to this homage to director James Whale and his classic horror movies “Frankenstein” and it’s follow-up “Bride Of Frankenstein“. He also throws in some references to horror stars Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Vincent Price and includes a whole host of quirky characters – the one that stood out for me the most was ‘Mr. Whiskers’; a cat who can predict the future of others by the shape of the shit left in his litter tray.
Burton’s decision to film in gorgeous monochrome also adds to the proceedings, meanwhile, giving Mary Shelley’s classic literary tale his own spin and he (and us) has a lot fun in doing so. It also has a similar off-key suburban setting like Burton’s earlier film “Edward Scissorhands” and shares the same balance of that film’s darkness and humour. Younger children may balk at the unravelling of the darker tale but older kids and adults can revel in it’s decent into a reanimated, monster B-Movie which is entirely fitting and in doing so, never loses it’s sense of fun or feeling for the macabre.

A lot of animated films these days have an appeal for children and adults alike and the balance that Burton achieves here is proof that that’s not about to change anytime soon. One of 2012’s very best animated films and one of Burton’s best for quite a while.

Mark Walker

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26 Responses to “Frankenweenie * * * *”

  1. REALLY glad you enjoyed this movie. I loved it. I also have been very critical of Burton but he really hits this one out of the park. The classic homages to everything from the Universal monster movies to the 1950s Sci-Fi genre worked for me. This was a really big surprise!

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    • I have to admit that I was going off burton as well but you’re spot on here Keith. He does hit this one out the park. It was a fantastic little film. I went into expecting very little but I was completely drawn into his world. On this evidence, it looks like Burton does have a bit more in the tank after all.

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  2. I was a big fan of this one when I saw it at the theater. Slowed down a wee bit in a few parts but overall I was very impressed. Always thought it was great that the original short got him canned from Disney and now they decorate the Haunted Mansion Jack Skellington style from Halloween till Christmas.

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    • Great film Adam. Yeah, Disney canned him and thought his short was too dark. Next thing you know, they’re backing the feature length version if it. I’ll bet Burton is well pleased.

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  3. I haven’t seen this or really been that interested so far, but your cool review has made me think of considering it. Corpse Bride was pretty good and nightmare’ goes without saying, (producing) Burton is often described as niche but I think he has shown enough stepping in and out of live action and with varying films over time.

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    • You should check it out man. It’s a great little film. You’re right though, Burton has shown flashes of animation but he’s rarely went all out on that genre. After seeing this, I’m glad he did.

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  4. Quick note, his animated film was “Vincent”. The original Frankenweenie was Live Action. I’m not sure what it was, but I didn’t get into this one as much as many other people did, and I enjoy a lot of Tim Burton’s earlier work. Maybe because I’m just not that big a fan of the classic horror movies, though I’ve seen a few of them.

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    • Ah! Thanks for the heads-up man. I haven’t seen the original Frankenweenie. I always assumed it was animation. Forgot all about Vincent but I was aware of The World of Stainboy.

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  5. I’ve been very cautious about Tim Burton as his newest movies tend to focus more on style than substance but I think I’ll have to see this one now. Nice review.

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    • I feel the same about Burton, man. I’ve been quite disappointed in a lot if his recent stuff. This is a great little film, though. You should definitely give it a go.

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  6. I gave up on Burton but I’ll give it a shot if you can vouch for it Mark.
    My daughter will live it, she loves scary shit.

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    • I can vouch for it Chris. Marvellous stuff. If your daughter likes scary stuff she should enjoy this. It’s not overly scary but my 6 year old really liked it. My 2 1/2 year old got a bit upset at the death of the little dog but when he came back alive she got into it. (That’s not really a spoiler, by the way, it happens at the beginning).

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  7. This was a nice return to form for Mr. Burton. I liked that you refferenced older movies from James Whale when reviewing this flick

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    • It was indeed a return to form for Burton. I loved it and the references to the old James Whale horrors throughout were great. Thanks for stopping by and commenting my friend. Always nice to see more faces. 🙂

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  8. Great review. Definitely Burton’s best in a while. Very fun and it looks amazing.

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  9. Great write up mate. This was probably my favourite animated film of last year, I thought it was great. And you’re spot on about the whole B-movie thing in the second half, I loved that! I thought the ending was a little safe but it is Disney after all.

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    • Cheers Chris. It was marvellous fun wasn’t it? The B-movie was a brilliant piece of imagination and it slotted it very nicely with the rest of the films tone. Burton has done very well indeed here. Glad to hear you feel the same.

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  10. I would totally want to give this a shot if I wasn’t so put out by everything Burton does… it blows my fucking mind that Johnny Depp isn’t in the cast…

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  11. I too have been criticizing Burton lately, how could I not after cheesy Alice in Wonderland and abomination that was Dark Shadows, but I liked Frankenweenie a lot. Unlike recent movies from Burton it had so much heart and the characters I cared for, though the second part of the movie wasn’t as good as the beginning.

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    • I avoided Dark Shadows like the plague. Haven’t been impressed with Burton for a while but he was back on form here. I enjoyed the second half of the film as well, though. It was a good homage to the old 50’s B-Movies. It would seem that overall everyone has been singing Burton’s praises here and rightfully so. Thanks Sati.

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