Friday, October 5, 2012

Frankenweenie: Beautiful Film, Odd Story


The Frankensteins (Martin Short, Charlie Tahan and
Catherine O'hara) and Sparky enjoy a homemade movie.
Photo: Disney
There is so much to like and yet, so much to lament with Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie.” Based on Burton’s 1984 short of the same name, “Frankenweenie” is the stop motion animation film that the director really wanted to make the first time around. The first one was so controversial that it cost him his job at Disney. 28 years later, we are treated to the new 87 minute comedy/horror/animation flick. The strange thing is the story still feels unfinished.

The basic premise of “Frankenweenie” is that Victor, a boy who loves science and creating his own movies, has a dog who gets hit by a car.  Victor tries to bring the pup back to life again using techniques found in early Frankenstein movies. It turns out a success, more or less. Soon, the other kids in the neighborhood want to re-animate their dead pets too, but when they do it, something goes terribly wrong. Then, things get better again and the credits roll. That’s about it.

On the plus side:
  •       “Frankenweenie” is actually quite beautiful to look at. The stop-motion animation is amazing to watch, perhaps even better because it is in black and white, and makes you wonder how long it took to create this “New World.”
  •     Sparky is cute dog; both the before and after the accident.
  •     Victor appears to have the best parents in the universe. Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein (Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara) are loving, caring and supportive. (This is a Burton film?)
  •     All ends on a happy note.


But “Frankenweenie” is odd many ways:
  •     Though voiced by a young Charlie Tahan, he looks like a college-aged version of Burton. The voice and the character don’t mesh.
  •     As a gag, many of the other kids in the story represent famous movie monsters but the joke is only visual and only mildly funny. The kids don’t really talk like kids and the children in the audience seemed to have missed the joke.
  •     One character, “Weird Girl” (Catherine O’Hara), has a cat named Mr. Whiskers who poops out warnings in his litter box in the shapes of letters. This is both strange and disgusting.
  •     The children’s science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau) appears to be fired, but the children still plan to compete in the science fair that the teacher would be hosting.
  •     Some of the side stories never seem to come together. Elsa Van Helsing (Winona Ryder) plays the girl next door. She is staying with her aunt and uncle for some reason that is never explained. She looks like a great fit for a love interest for Victor, but nothing happens. Later, Weird Girl seems to disappear leaving her story line a mystery.
  •     There are a few villains in the movie, but none of them really do anything villainous.

Overall, “Frankenweenie” is a disappointment. Burton is usually a good story teller, but not this time. The reason to see this is for the art, not the story. There are some nice 3D effects, but not enough to warrant going to the theater for. This will make a nice rental.

Though a family film, it is still a horror flick that will no doubt freak out little ones, but is actually quite tame. There is nothing demonic in the storyline to offend sensitive viewers. It is basically a story about good intentions gone badly. (Originally posted on Examiner.com)


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