Victor Frankenstein is a lonely young man 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 in style 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 really adds to the proceedings and gives 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 macabre 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.
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.
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.
"The electrifying dog is back from beyond the grave."
Everybody has their personal favorite Tim Burton, and for a long time mine has been Ed Wood. Well, that has changed. My new favorite is this short little animated film, Frankenweenie. I fell in love with it from the very start. The moment the Disney castle goes from normal to black and white, a storm brews, and we hear the familiar sound of a Danny Elfman score start to hum; I knew this was going to be something extremely special. I wasn't let down at all either. Tim Burton is back to his roots and back in top form after a few years of "so-so" movies; and I actually enjoyed Alice in Wonderland.
Frankenweenie takes the classic story of a child and his dog. Victor is a young boy who doesn't socialize much. He spends his time making movies and is enamored by science. When his beloved dog, Sparky parishes; he harnesses the knowledge his new science teacher gave him to try to bring his dog back from the dead. He does so successfully, but keeping it a secret may end up being a little harder then he expected. Especially when a bunch of kids trying to win a science fair start sticking their noses into it.
There's so much to love here. The setting is absolutely perfect. Think of the Edward Scissorhands setting, then animate it. That's the setting of Frankenweenie. Then there's the perfect tone setting score from Danny Elfman and beautiful black and white animation that looks phenomenal. Add to it a great take on the classic Frankenstein story, and a great voice cast to go along with it, and you have an instant classic on your hands. It's almost like Nightmare Before Christmas conceived a child.
Frankenweenie is beautiful, it's funny, it's creepy(in a way), it's heartwarming, it's... dare I say, perfect. This is a new favorite of mine and one I hope to watch with my children when I get to that point of my life. It's pure filmmaking genius from a pure filmmaking genius. Anyone who wrote Tim Burton off, suck on this, because he's obviously a long way from gone. I cannot wait to sit down and enjoy this film many, many times over in the future.
Now don't get me wrong I'm a HUGE Burton fan and have been since 'Beetlejuice', but I can't deny that Burton has lost his touch recently and his last few films have failed to inspire. The reason for this being his unique quirky imagination has become somewhat stale and over used.
The original short film of 'Frankenweenie' was pretty neat because it was a curious cutesy homage to the classic monster film but wasn't dripping in Burton's typical trademarks. This new remake is gorgeous to look at and is indeed a wet dream for all gothic fans such as myself but as I review this I just can't help but think there is nothing new here.
OK its a remake so of course its not original but everything in this film has been hijacked from all his previous work. The suburban setting for the 'Frankenstein' family is the same typical Californian identikit urban sprawl that we've seen in many of Burton's films like 'Edward Scissorhands'. Some of the creatures in this film are literately ripped from his other films, the cat/bat creature and the werewolf-like rodent creature are both virtually the same creatures used in 'The Nightmare Before Christmas', and whilst watching the film you can see many little ideas dotted throughout from his other films.
The sequence where 'Victor' (Burton loves the names Victor and Vincent doesn't he) tries to bring 'Sparky' back to life has many little nods to previous films. Well I say nods but are they? I get the idea Burton simply can't resist putting these little kooky creations in his films ever since most of them appeared in 'Nightmare'.
The main character of 'Victor' is pretty much the same guy from 'Corpse Bride' with a dash of 'Vincent' and many of the child characters look familiar to Burton's 'Oyster Boy' stories. Now I'm not complaining because this is a lovely film which has a good heart and its fabulous to see Burton championing stop motion claymation in this day and age. You can appreciate the skill and craftsmanship involved creating these films, Burton and his team certainly deserve much credit and kudos for that.
There are some really nice touches throughout the film. The few characters that have a certain resemblance to classic character or actors of the horror genre, the 'Godzilla' homage was nice and this whole movie concept does work much better in this format. The old live action film felt a bit too silly but the whole idea fits the animation world just fine.
Anyway all I'm saying is despite the film being a nice return to 'classic Burton' of the 90's when his style (dare I say kink) was fresh and new. At the same time it is still a large rerun of his dark imagination all over again. I really can't help but wonder how long he can keep regurgitating his own ideas.
A beautiful visual halloween feast with lots of soul that will definitely warm the cockles of your heart. I just think Mr Burton really needs to broaden his horizons a tad as the constant use of certain styles, designs and cast is really getting thin. Other than that it is pleasing to see the digging up of that classic retro Burton of yore, just don't rely on that for your next projects Mr Burton. You can only make so many claymation films like this.
The unique look of the film extends to every part of it, but it's the eyes of every character that really stands out, delivering personality in spades.
The ensemble at Victor's school are great in small doses. When the story goes off the rails and dilutes the film of its very personal nature, they become silly, and a huge distraction. I was left wanting way more Victor and Sparky time, and feeling like this whole film could've been much tighter without the science fair B-story.
Perhaps I was able to connect to the story line in Burton's latest stop motion film. I am a huge dog lover and have unfortunately lost a couple of pets throughout my life. Actually my first dog, Auggie, died similarly to Sparky in Frankenweenie. Being the same age as Victor, I could feel his extreme pain over the loss of his best friend. Now I did not try to revive Auggie like Frankenstein's monster, but I completely empathized with the boy trying to fill the void by any means possible.
This film is actually listed as horror (plus comedy and animation), and I will say for young children it would be wise for parents to heed that genre listing. Yes, it is rated PG, but for those young children who might scare easily this story is a bit on the dark side and quite intense at times. In fact, a girl and her father left during the film never to return. I noticed the stuffed animal in her hands and she was holding on to it for dear life as she briskly walked out of the theatre. My guess she was about 8 years-old. Now, my nearly 11-year old daughter had no qualms or fear of the story line and was delighted with the entire film.
For the parents who see this film I imagine you will revel in some nostalgic memories that Frankenweenie will evoke. I don't want to give away too much but one character in this movie was based on and looks nearly identical to another character from one of the stop motion films from our youth. I will let you figure out which one. Also, there are others who were obviously based on classic horror film characters. I counted at least three but have a feeling there might be more. And I would probably know if their more if I knew a lot more about horror films, but sadly, I was not unlike the little 8 year-old who skedaddled out of the theatre when I was her age.
All-in-all, Frankenweenie is the classic Frankenstein tale, no pun intended, so it won't win any originality awards, but there was a good message about loss, science and trying to obtain things for the wrong reasons. A good message for the youngsters out there - and perhaps for a few adults as well.
My favorite part: The one character that reminded me of another character from my youth.
My least favorite: That it reminded me of the loss of my first dog.
Directed (original story) by Tim Burton, Walt Disney Pictures, 2012
Screenplay: Leonard Ripps, John August and Tim Burton.
Starring: Martin Short, Catherine O'Hara, Winona Ryder and Martin Landau.
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Horror and Sci-fi.
Length: 87 minutes
Review: 7 out of 10
Nate's Grade: B-
A complete failure
Frankenweenie, is a boring and stupid film that lacks originality and story. Ill be very honest, people are just giving credibility to it because it's Tim Burton, and people tend to think that whatever he does is good. But they are very wrong, Tim Burton was great but recently he has been showing that he doesn't live up to his own expectations.
From the second I started watching the movie I already hated it. The black and white in the film is pointless and adds no artsy effect if there isn't any character development or any story to be followed. The vagueness within the story and characters in Frankenweenie are so colossal that it's hard to ignore it and enjoy the movie. As much as I tried to watch the film without a critic eye, it was impossible. As hard as I tried to just have fun, I wasn't able to.
Victor's Mom: When you loose someone you love they move into a special place in your heart.