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Review: Frankenweenie

Oct. 5, 2012by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: Young Victor Frankenstein is a loner, with his only refuge being science and his beloved dog Sparky- whos promptly hit by a car and killed. Victor is able to bring him back to life via his scientific know-how, but- naturally, there are complications.

REVIEW: A big-screen, stop-motion remake of his landmark 1984 short film- FRANKENWEENIE is interesting in that it comes from Walt Disney Pictures- the same company that shelved his short back in the eighties because it was too weird. Little did the suits back in 1984 realize how much audiences would eventually come to appreciate Burtons weirdness...


While FRANKENWEENIE is a little more conventional than his other animated films (CORPSE BRIDE and the great NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS) or rather, as conventional as a black and white cartoon about a dead-dog can be, this still feels like more of a Tim Burton movie in the classic sense than a lot of his more recent live action films. Like the short that inspired it, FRANKENWEENIE is presumably inspired by Burtons own childhood as an outsider growing up in 1960s suburbia. Young Victor is, like Edward Scissorhands before him, a Burton doppelganger, with that same wild mop of black hair and pale, angular features.

That said- the world of FRANKENWEENIE is far less cruel than similar suburban towns featured in his other films, so maybe Burtons mellowing. Maybe the fact that FRANKENWEENIE is a kids film also has something to do with it, although like CORPSE BRIDE and NIGHTMARE, this seems like itll be of more interest to teens and adults than the target kiddie audience.

Whats funny about FRANKENWEENIE is that Victor, the loner, seems way more normal than anyone else in his class, which includes the emaciated Weird Girl- whose cat poos the initials of her classmates anytime something big is about to happen to them (shades of David Lynch?), the imperious Toshiaki, the deformed Edgar E. Gore (hint, hint) and others.

Weirdness aside, at the heart of FRANKENWEENIE is the familiar story of a boy and his dog, and having grown up with a beloved pooch of my own (RIP Mickey), the interaction between Victor and Sparky put a big smile on my face. The stop-motion animation is beautifully rendered in beautiful black and white, and continuing the retro-feel, Sparky even looks a bit like Burtons own Family Dog (a very short-lived animated sitcom I remember watching in the early nineties)- although the 3D effects are, as usual, only marginally eye-catching.


Burton fans will get a kick out of the voice cast, which includes two Burton vets- Martin Landau as the spooky science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (he even uses his ED WOOD Bela Lugosi-voice), and Winona Ryder as his neighbor Elsa- and the object of his affections. Catherine OHara, replaces Shelly Duvall as Victor's mum- and sticks around to voice a few additional characters- including Weird Girl and the crazy gym teacher. Martin Short plays Victors father, as well as the heavily accented town Mayor Van Helsing- although that name makes me think Burtons got his homages mixed up. Another Burton fave, Christopher Lee- has an inspired cameo involving a scene from one of his old-Hammer horror classics.

Given that this is a remake of a 24-minute short, you can reasonably assume Burton and screenwriter John August (another Burton vet) have expanded the story. As a result, the whole third act of FRANKENWEENIE, involving Victors town being overrun by hideously deformed mutant pets that have been brought back from the dead, is new. In this section of the film, Burton pays homage to the classic rampaging monster films of his youth, such as THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS and THEM- with Danny Elfmans score also having a bit of a retro-fifties style sound (as a whole, this is one of Elfmans best scores in a while). While certainly this all is going to feel a little tacked-on if youre familiar with the short, its still a fun, even playful, addition.

While kids will probably enjoy the animated hijinks Victor and his re-animated dog get up too (its certainly family friendly- with the stitched-up Sparky looking more cute than creepy), again- I suspect this is going to be more appealing to Burtons older fans. While Burtons films have been mostly miss in the last few years (although I thought DARK SHADOWS was underrated) - with FRANKENWEENIE Burton seems more engaged than hes been in a while. If it takes this type of stop-motion animated film to give us a real Burton film again, than lets hope he returns to the form more often.

Source: JoBlo.com

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2:31AM on 10/09/2012

Sweet!

I haven't really like Tim Burtons stuff either than Edward Scizzorhands, Batman, Batman Returns, and Beetlejuice. I'm really excited for this one and plan on seeing it ASAP. Stop motion animation is the best! I loved Paranorman, and have high hope for this one too.
I haven't really like Tim Burtons stuff either than Edward Scizzorhands, Batman, Batman Returns, and Beetlejuice. I'm really excited for this one and plan on seeing it ASAP. Stop motion animation is the best! I loved Paranorman, and have high hope for this one too.
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4:10AM on 10/05/2012
I've seen the short & it was pretty well done even considering the time period, so this has me interested. I know Burton gets alot of hate on here (why IDK), but I have enjoyed most of his movies (except POTA & even he admits it sucked) so I always look forward to his films.

I did finally see Dark Shadows & it just seems WB simply relied on Johnny Depp's star power to be the selling point. While I did enjoy the movie it went between genres way too much, from horror to comedy & then a
I've seen the short & it was pretty well done even considering the time period, so this has me interested. I know Burton gets alot of hate on here (why IDK), but I have enjoyed most of his movies (except POTA & even he admits it sucked) so I always look forward to his films.

I did finally see Dark Shadows & it just seems WB simply relied on Johnny Depp's star power to be the selling point. While I did enjoy the movie it went between genres way too much, from horror to comedy & then a monster movie, almost like they didn't know how to market it.
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12:20AM on 10/05/2012
I wish I could "thumbs up" both your comments, @EVILDEADKING. I loathe it when people do that.
I wish I could "thumbs up" both your comments, @EVILDEADKING. I loathe it when people do that.
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8:59PM on 09/27/2012
I hate when people call Nightmare Before Christmas a Tim Burton film.
I hate when people call Nightmare Before Christmas a Tim Burton film.
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9:07PM on 09/27/2012
do you also hate it when people call Empire Strikes Back a George Lucas film?
do you also hate it when people call Empire Strikes Back a George Lucas film?
11:53PM on 09/28/2012
Yes.
Yes.
+1
8:37PM on 09/27/2012

in character as Owen Wilson's character from Armageddon:

"ok so... he made a remake of his own movie, thanks. that's all you had to say, remake of his own movie"
"ok so... he made a remake of his own movie, thanks. that's all you had to say, remake of his own movie"
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4:51PM on 09/27/2012

Dark Shadows underrated?!?!

i've been a huge Burton fan since i was a kid (before i even knew that the guy who did Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands was the same guy) - and i've stuck with him through the hard times. but, i'm sorry - Dark Shadows was EASILY one of the worst movies i've ever sat through. there was not a single redeeming quality about that movie. it pains me to say so, but it's in the top 5 worst movies ive ever seen.
i've been a huge Burton fan since i was a kid (before i even knew that the guy who did Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands was the same guy) - and i've stuck with him through the hard times. but, i'm sorry - Dark Shadows was EASILY one of the worst movies i've ever sat through. there was not a single redeeming quality about that movie. it pains me to say so, but it's in the top 5 worst movies ive ever seen.
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11:46AM on 09/27/2012
OUPS...
Double Post, sorry !!!
OUPS...
Double Post, sorry !!!
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11:42AM on 09/27/2012
I like the fact, here, that whatever happens, Victor's parents support him, they don't get what's happening every time, but they keep supporting their son anyway, and this is quite UNburton... Well most of the REST of the village are close minded idiots (and a, more prominent than usual, criticism to a certain part of American population as well), like adults usually are in the Burtoniverse...
I like the fact, here, that whatever happens, Victor's parents support him, they don't get what's happening every time, but they keep supporting their son anyway, and this is quite UNburton... Well most of the REST of the village are close minded idiots (and a, more prominent than usual, criticism to a certain part of American population as well), like adults usually are in the Burtoniverse...
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1:56PM on 09/27/2012
Since Burton parents passed away and since he's a dad himself , looks like he has a better view and understanding of parenthood.
Since Burton parents passed away and since he's a dad himself , looks like he has a better view and understanding of parenthood.
3:57AM on 10/05/2012
this film is very Unburton, considering he didnt want to do it at all, and disney basically forced him too.
this film is very Unburton, considering he didnt want to do it at all, and disney basically forced him too.
7:42AM on 09/27/2012
"Catherine OHara, who played the mother in the original short, is back re-voicing the same part"
Get your facts right. It was actually Shelley Duvall in the original short.
"Catherine OHara, who played the mother in the original short, is back re-voicing the same part"
Get your facts right. It was actually Shelley Duvall in the original short.
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10:17AM on 09/27/2012
Whoops- my mistake. Thanks for the heads up.
Whoops- my mistake. Thanks for the heads up.
11:46AM on 09/27/2012
Well THAT'S (not) NEW...
You're being thumbed down for being right...
You weren't insulting (nor trying to be, I think) or anything, so WHY the thumbs down...
I mean, even the writer of this article didn't took it the wrong way !!
Well THAT'S (not) NEW...
You're being thumbed down for being right...
You weren't insulting (nor trying to be, I think) or anything, so WHY the thumbs down...
I mean, even the writer of this article didn't took it the wrong way !!
4:14AM on 09/27/2012
I thought that it doesn't matter if a character dies, because even the living ones look like dead ones.
I thought that it doesn't matter if a character dies, because even the living ones look like dead ones.
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