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Frankenweenie (2012)

Year: 2012
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Charlie Tahan, Catherine O'Hara, Winona Ryder, Martin Short
Country of Origin: U.S.
Rating: PG
Time: 87 mins.

Tim Burton goes back to his roots with this black and white, stop-motion animation, family flick, Frankenweenie, which is his most personal and endearing film yet. In the 80's, Burton worked at Disney as an animator. Obviously, he wasn't able to fit to the Disney mold so instead, he resorted to making short films based on his ideas. During this time, he made two films, Vincent and Frankenweenie. Thirty years later, he's finally able to make a feature length film that is an accumulation of all of his films combined. Frankenweenie is quintessential Tim Burton from the misunderstood outcast to the gothic visuals to its fantasy elements. But while his previous films all held to this standard, his last two films Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Dark Shadows (2012), it seemed like Burton focused more on being a stylist than a director which handicapped his story and characters to merely be characterize as another picture of Johnny Depp being weird. Burton fans know his trademarks and scenery all too well but will be surprised how touching and normal this film actually is. Now, that's weird. 

Like I said in my review of Tim Burton's Dark Shadows earlier this year (read here), that his films are filled with such eccentricities that it can only be enjoyed by a few. This is not the case in Frankenweenie, considering this is a universal story about a boy and his dog. Victor (Charlie Tahan) is an introverted kid living in a small Dutch-influenced town in the same era as Edward Scissorhands, with his best friend Sparky, his dog. Victor's father agrees to sign his science fair permission slip if he signs up to play baseball but after a game, tragedy hits when Sparky chases a ball into the street. After seeing his science teacher re-animate a dead frog through electricity, it inspires Victor to do the same and magically succeeds and reunites with Sparky. Naturally, with all the barking, prancing, and dog parts falling off, the resurrection of Sparky doesn't stay a secret for too long when his science fair contenders and classmates are eager to test the experiments on their own deceased pets. 

This is one of the very few films that doesn't have another Burton trademark: Helena Boham Carter and Johnny Depp. The absence of his two favorite actors is refreshing in Frankenweenie with Catherine O'Hara filling in their spots with flair and ease. Winona Ryder, an early collaborator of Burton returns as Elsa Van Helsing, the girl next door. I was sadden by the miniature amount of screen time she had. For the few minutes that we shared, her voice haunted me with flashes of her piercing angelic beauty in Edward Scissorhands (1990) and gothic idiosyncraticities in Beetlejuice (1988). Each classmate of Victor's look as if they came straight out of a Boris Karloff film with their hunchback, gapped tooth, blunt hair cuts, doe eyes, overly rectangular jaw, and jet black hair. His classmates' vehement longing to win the science fair with ill-intentions causes their experiment to go haywire erupting havoc on the town. Some sensitive children may whimper at some scenes, even I was biting my nails in suspense and horror. Frankenweenie provides insight to life and death of a kid and his best friend but it delivers the message of unrelenting hope that gives the film the biggest heart that any Burton film has ever had. A-

1 critiques :

Dan O. at: October 11, 2012 at 3:39 PM said...

Thankfully, Burton comes back to form with this material and makes it a dark, yet heartfelt tale that never goes that extra-mile to pull on our heartstrings and tell the kiddies something new about life and death, but at least it’s pleasant enough. Hopefully, Burton can keep this winning-record going. Good review.

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