In the mid- 80s, Tim Burton (while still working for Disney as an animator) created for them a live action made for TV short called Frankenweenie about a boy who resurrects his dead dog Frankenstein style.
A few decades later, he has decided (for whatever reason) to remake that little film as a feature length stop motion film that expands on the original material, but retains the use of filming it is gorgeous black and white.
This film is basically not all that different from Burton';s other work: it';s gothic, eerie, weird, has his unmistakable style and aesthetics, and does a very unsubtle job of displaying his love for the horror genre.
He pretty much keeps on making the same stuff over and over, rarely changing (and not doing well when he does). Still, I kinda liked it. He's unfortunately not growing as an artist and, while I am getting tired of it, there's still something very comforting to be found with the familiarity, especially since its usually done pretty well. Plus, it's better than Dark Shadows, so it's somewhat of a step up, even if no real progress is being made.
I thought I had this film figured out, assuming it would be pretty formulaic with the plot and direction. I was right for a while, but then the third act comes around and makes a turn I wasn't expecting, and was pleasantly surprised to get. Thankfully this was also not spoiled in any of the previews. The conclusion does have a few expected moments, and it earns them, but how it gets to those points is where I got surprised. And no, I'm not gonna spoil it.
We get appearance from Burton alums Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Landau, Martin Short, and Conchata Ferrell, and they all put in some nice work, with some voicing multiple (and hard to tell) characters. As our lead Victor, Charlie Tahan is also really good, and he is convincing as the weird kid who really loves his dog, and proves willing to do anything to have him back in his life.
Visually, this is quintessential Burton, and all the creative designs with the characters, locations, and the general look and feel is all very top notch. The requisite nods to horror work well, even if, as I said, I'm growing weary of his lack of growth. Some of the nods are unavoidable ,but then he throws in some classics just for good measure (namely how the look of the teacher is based on Vincent Price), not to mention the names of the characters. Then there's those moments I wasn't expecting, but was very thrilled to see, similar to what happens with The Cabin in the Woods (and that's as close to being revealing that I'll get).
This is Burton, so it should go without saying that it gets dark at times, but even then, it actually gets a little traumatizing, and for a PG animated film, this is quite intense. I think it mostly worked though, and thankfully it doesn't reach Batman Returns levels of going perhaps a tad too far with the dark and disturbing stuff.
All in all, a pretty good effort. It's nothing new, but done well.