'Frankenweenie' (2012) Movie Review

Tim Burton seems to be a director that makes two kinds of films; 1.) Tim Burton movies and 2.) movies that look like Tim Burton movies. Frankenweenie is undoubtedly the former whereas films such as Dark Shadows, Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fall in the latter category with stories that are incredibly uninspired set in a lush world of imagination where Burton's knack for whimsy and unique characters suffocate under scraggly trees and desaturated color palettes.

Frankenweenie isn't classic Burton, in the sense we aren't getting a film on par with such personal favorites as Ed Wood and Mars Attacks!, but there is a certain charm to it that only gets better and better over its short 87 minute running time.

'Frankenweenie'
Review
Grade: B-

Frankenweenie"Frankenweenie" is a Walt Disney Pictures release, directed by Tim Burton and is rated PG for thematic elements, scary images and action.

The cast includes Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Martin Short, Catherine O'Hara, Charlie Tahan and Conchata Ferrell.

For more information on this film including pictures, trailers and a detailed synopsis click here.

Based on Burton's own 1984 short film of the same name, Frankenweenie is far from an original story, taking the tale of Frankenstein and placing it on the shoulders of innocent school children in a gothic setting that's now synonymous with Burton's features. It does, however, tackle the idea of classic monster movies with the luster and verve of the fans that enjoy them.

The film's central character is the reclusive young Victor (voiced by Charlie Tahan) who spends most of his time fooling around with making home movies (in 3D no less), experiments and playing with his beloved dog Sparky. His interests lie in science and he's taken a keen fascination with his new teacher Mr. Rzykruski (voiced by Martin Landau), a strict, but passionate educator. Victor's father (voiced by Martin Short), however, wishes he would take up sports and makes a deal with his son that soon finds him on the baseball diamond, but this is where disaster strikes.

In a freakish turn of events, Victor not only manages to hit a home run, but Sparky chases after the ball and is ultimately hit by a car and dies. All of this is inevitable from the start and is one of the reasons the opening 30 minutes or so tend to drag while introducing us to a few kooky characters such as the wide-eyed Weird Girl (yes, that's her name) and her cat who poos psychic readings and Edgar 'E' Gore (voiced by Atticus Shaffer) whose relation to the "Frankenstein" tale needs very little explanation.

Frankenweenie doesn't begin to pick up until midway through as Victor's experiment to bring his dog back to life has taken place. The consequences of his accomplishment are realized as other school children marvel in what he has done and want to duplicate his success.

Over the course of its latter two-thirds, Frankenweenie turns into a monster movie that will have fans of films from Universal's classic monster franchises, Godzilla, Gremlins and late night, B-movie horror features loving every minute of it. It may prove to be a bit scary for younger audience members, but thankfully Burton didn't tone it down to appease the youngest of moviegoers as they'll certainly reach an age soon enough where they can find their own enjoyment in it.

As expected, the animation is wonderful in ways that only Burton and his team can create and while Danny Elfman's score is familiar, as his scores most often are, it's also necessarily respectful of the genre in which Burton is attempting to recreate.

I've started to get the sense Burton has grown bored with most of the films he's making and often wonder why he still makes them. His name seems big enough now that he no longer has to continue to mine properties to be remade. I'd love to see him spend more time on films such as this and Ed Wood, Mars Attacks!, Edward Scissorhands or even Big Fish, rather than dressing up Johnny Depp in weird outfits over and over again while at the same time figuring out what kind of wig to put Helena Bonham Carter in.

Believe it or not, Frankenweenie is the first film Burton has made since Mars Attacks! in 1996 without Depp or Carter and outside, of Big Fish and Sweeney Todd, it is the best film he's made in those 16 years (Yes, I realize I gave Corpse Bride a "B+" back in 2005. Times change, as do opinions.). It feels like territory he's happy to play in rather than merely making the movie so as to cash a paycheck on the other side.

GRADE: B-