Review: Frankenweenie / Cert: PG / Director: Tim Burton / Screenplay: John August, Leonard Ripps, Tim Burton / Starring: (voice) Charlie Tahan, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Atticus Shaffer, Robert Capron / Release Date: October 17th
It is arguable that Tim Burton's movies of late have been disappointing. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows did not capture the imagination as Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood or even Big Fish did. It is therefore a relief to see a return to form with Frankenweenie, an animated film based on Burton's own 1984 short. Burton has success in the animation field, having previously produced the cult classic The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride.
Burton's resurrection (ahem) is a story about a boy named Victor (Tahan) and his pet dog Sparky. One tragic day, Sparky dies in an accident and budding scientist Victor decides to dig him up and try and bring him back to life with the aid of a kite and some lightning. Before you start thinking Pet Sematary, this is actually a Disney film, and despite the macabre plot and a couple of morbid moments, it’s definitely highly enjoyable family friendly fare.
The film is, quite obviously, a spoof of Frankenstein and nearly every character in the is named or modelled after a classic horror icon, with a couple of references to more contemporary films such as Jurassic Park. One character, the brilliant Mr. Rzykruski (Landau), is modelled on Vincent Price himself (whose last film was actually Burton’s Edward Scissorhands) and there is a cameo of sorts from Christopher Lee as Dracula.
As with Alice in Wonderland, Burton has continued with the postmodern penchant for 3D but has turned back the clock to use stop-motion, which works brilliantly in black and white. There are a lot of clever jokes in the film and genuine laugh out loud moments, with one brilliant moment involving a psychic cat. The film ultimately tugs at the heartstrings as well, as any tale about a boy and his dog should.
The supporting characters are also brilliant, and surprisingly there is no involvement from Johnny Depp or wife Helena Bonham Carter. However there is music from long-time collaborator Danny Elfman, and regulars Winona Ryder and Catherine O’ Hara return to voice characters.
Frankenweenie is a refreshing addition to Burton's gothic back catalogue, just in time for Halloween.