Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short
Plot: Young Victor conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog Sparky back to life, only to face unintended, sometimes monstrous, consequences.
Genre: Animation / Comedy / Family
Awards: Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Animated Feature
Rating: PG for thematic elements, scary images and action.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
This film was reviewed in the 3D format.
Based on a story by Tim Burton that was made into a short film in 1984, Frankenweenie pops out in a quite glorious feature-length stop motion animated film that unsurprisingly bears the hallmarks of Burton's distinctive visual style.
Much like its stop-motion colleague ParaNorman (2012), Frankenweenie is dark, twisted, and loads of fun. It is also heart-warming, but not in the same vein as the emotionally swelling Edward Scissorhands (1990) or Big Fish (2003). It offers a safe narrative that does not take risks, thus some may find the film ol' so predictable.
Well, Burton has always been a predictable filmmaker, so there is no guessing how Frankenweenie will turn out in the end. What is more intriguing is the way Burton tells his story visually.
Sparky is a well-loved dog who gets hit by a car one day and dies. His owner Victor secretly attempts to bring it back to life via a lightning strike... and succeeds. Problems ensue in his little town when Victor's nosy peers begin to conduct their own lightning experiments. As this is a Burton film, expect some scary moments and some scary (but funny) looking creatures, including a Godzilla wannabe turtle.
Frankenweenie's visuals and music (by long-time collaborator Danny Elfman) drive the film extensively. It is shot in black-and-white, yet it captivates in some odd manner despite its bleak-looking cinematography.
Perhaps it is the Gothic elements, or the disquieting sense of doom as personified by a creepy girl with large eyes containing pencil-point eyeballs, or just simply the reason that Burton is one of the supreme visual stylists of our time. The effort that has gone into Frankenweenie is commendable, though I personally feel that ParaNorman is the better film.
Frankenweenie targets not children with their parents in tow, but parents (who are also Burton fans) with their child(ren) in tow. It is decidedly less mainstream, but it doesn't mean kids will catch the Z monster from the start. An adorable dog can do wonders to sustain a child's interest, although it must be said that Burton's vision of animal cuteness defies popular convention.
In any case, Frankenweenie is fun to watch. It is not Burton's best in a long while, but one suspects he may have done enough to get the Academy's attention. An Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature? I say why not.
Verdict: Everything you will find in a Tim Burton stop-motion animated film - dark, twisted, and predictable fun.
GRADE: B (7.5/10 or 3.5 stars)
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