Movie Review: “Frankenweenie” – Burton is Alive!

Written by Emily McWilliams October 06, 2012

After years of remakes and adaptations, Tim Burton returns with a film based on some of his original ideas and artwork.  Granted, “Frankenweenie” is a remake of a live-action short that Burton created in the 80’s, but like his original movie, it is full of classic horror and childhood nostalgia.  For “Frankenweenie’s” resurrection this time around, Burton opted for the use of stop-motion animation giving the film – and Burton lovers everywhere – a weird and wonderful design that no other animation film out right now can compete with.  As well, the decision to film in black and white was a very bold choice that may not appeal to children, but is a welcome and artistic change for older audience members.  Featuring the voices of Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Charlie Tahan, and Winona Ryder, “Frankenweenie” is an animated surprise to come out this fall.

An Update on the Classic Tale

Set in the eerily ideal suburb of New Holland, young Victor Frankenstein (Tahan) is an aspiring filmmaker and scientist.  Victor is somewhat of a loner at school, so his best friend is his dog, Sparky.  At the request of his father, Victor attempts baseball.  The game turns tragic when Sparky chases the ball into the street and is hit by a car.  Victor is devastated, but believes he can bring Sparky back to life using electricity.  The experiment is successful, but when Victor’s classmates discover that Victor can bring the dead back to life, they think it’s so he can win the school science fair.  Soon all of the neighborhood kids are conducting their own experiments with monstrous results.

Stop-Motion is a Technical Marvel

The use of stop-motion animation in “Frankenweenie” is a technical achievement.  The style of stop-motion is a little rough and a little creepy but it perfectly suited the film’s tone and references to classic Hollywood horror films.  Stop-motion is a very precise and detail oriented art form, and from watching the movie I could see how much effort went into the design of each character and the staging of individual scenes and sets.  Not only was this a film a throwback to classic horror, but in many ways to classic Burton films as well.  Reminders of “Beetlejuice”, “Edward Scissorhands”, and “Corpse Bride” were seen in many of the film’s visual qualities.  It was great seeing Burton back in his element after a few years of forgettable remakes.

The 3-D Factor

When it comes to 3-D I am totally biased because I really don’t understand the fad at all.  I saw “Frankenweenie” in 3-D, but I can honestly say I feel that I would have enjoyed it more on regular film.  Stop-motion is already a very dimensional art, and the 3-D didn’t really enhance it for me.  I actually found it distracting because during moments of fast-action, the character’s animation had a shadowy trail that became blurry.   The 3-D was cool for some of the film’s plot points but overall I wouldn’t say it was worth the extra $5 I had to pay.

Burton’s Best Film in Years

“Frankenweenie” is Burton’s best film to come out in years.  I was beginning to lose hope after this year’s earlier release of “Dark Shadows”, but “Frankenweenie” is smart, funny, and touching (more tears shed during this than “Marley and Me”).  This film is definitely not just for kids, and a fun treat to come out just in time for Halloween.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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