Frankenweenie (3D) Review
October 16, 2012
Finally, Burton is back with an animation strong enough to match The Nightmare Before Christmas. Frankenweenie proves a break from his wife and Depp is a really good thing.
I‘ve had a turbulent relationship with Tim Burton over the years. Rocky until 2005 (Planet of the Apes), I should have filed for a metaphorical divorce; whenever he released a new movie I felt bitter (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), disappointed (Alice in Wonderland) and that he was spending just way too much time with Johnny Depp (Dark Shadows). His recent production projects simply added more salt to the wound (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter especially). So when Burton’s long awaited remake of the 1984 short Frankenweenie was announced I had similar doubts of his ability. Thankfully, his latest animation was a surprising return to form.
Following the unexpected loss of his beloved dog, Sparky; Victor (voiced by Charlie Tahan) harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back from the dead. Victor’s attempts to keep the stitched up Sparky out of sight are futile, as his pet is just as curious as before his untimely demise. It’s not long before the residents of New Holland learn news of Sparky’s reanimation, leading to a whole new world of monster-sized problems.
It was worth the near ten year wait for a decent Tim Burton film; Frankenweenie is a touching triumph. Taking the time to painstakingly recreate his original black and white short has really paid off, as Burton’s emotional connection is more than evident. By returning to what he loves to do and really does do best; he’s giving his fans exactly what we’ve been craving. The nods to classic horror are overt and a joy to fans of the genre, but it’s more of a delight to see his own trademarks creep through a la Wes Anderson; his iconic delightfully dark themes, the monochrome colour scheme and the unmistakably Burton character stylings.
Frankenweenie isn’t just a pleasure for fans of Burton’s earlier work, it has something in it for everyone: an incredibly cute (if slightly battered) dog, a tale that tugs on the heart strings and a good moral to the story that will certainly keep parents happy. Drawing on Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein; we’re reminded that just because someone is different, it doesn’t necessarily make them a monster. This ethic not only applies to the previously deceased Sparky; Vincent is a science-geek loner, his classmate (only referred to as Weird Girl, one of the many characters voiced by Catherine O’Hara) lives up to her name, and his neighbour Elsa (Winona Ryder) is a deeply hardened cynic despite her youth. Regardless their quirks, every one of them is endearing.
Like ParaNorman, it’s refreshing to watch an animation at the cinema that isn’t CGI. As the stop-motion Frankenweenie was filmed in black and white, and rendered in 3D; it’s set firmly apart from other contenders released in time for half term. Not normally the biggest fan of the third dimension, I did think it added a depth and lushness to the greyscale palette. Mixing humour with heart; Burton has come up with a winner for all the family this Hallowe’en. Just be aware that any dog lovers like myself may become a little emotionally overwhelmed at times, but I’ll let Tim off for making me weep. Just this once.