Director: Tim Burton
Featuring Voice Work of: Martin Short, Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shafer
Dogs are widely known as man's best friend. This couldn't be truer for Victor Frankenstien (Tahan). Victor is a smart, but unpopular kid who has no friends. He spends his past time playing with his dog, Sparky, and working in his homemade lab in his parents attic. His favorite subject is school is science taught by the mysterious Mr. Rzykruski (Landau). Edgar E. Gore (Shafer) is another outcast kid in Victor's class who would love to work on the science project with him, but Victor would rather work alone. A weird girl (O'Hara) gives Victor a warning that something major is going to happen to him. She explains the psychic premonitions that her cat gives her that happen to come true. Victor's dad (Short) takes him to play baseball with some of the other local boys. He is not exactly the athletic type so when he hits a home run on the third swing, he realizes this must be the sign the weird girl was talking about. Sparky gets super excited and chases after Victor's ball. On his way back from catching the ball, Sparky is run over by an oncoming car and killed instantly. Victor is devastated about losing his one and only friend.
A light bulb goes off for Victor one day in class. Mr. Rzykruski uses electricity to stimulate the muscles on a dead frog. An inspired Victor believes this may work to bring Sparky back. He gets his lab going in full force during a thunderstorm and hooks Sparky up to many bolts, wires, and kites to use the lightening as his spark. Sure enough, it works and Sparky "is aliiiivve". Victor is shocked and excited to have his best friend back. He knows he must keep it a secret. He keeps Sparky in the attic during the work day so his dad, mom (O'Hara), and others don't find out.
The energetic Sparky can't sit still being cooped up all day in the attic. He goes exploring in the neighborhood getting into mischief with the neighbor's (Ryder) dog as well as the weird girl's cat. Edgar sees Sparky and insists that Victor shows him how he did it. He buys a dead goldfish in an attempt to try it out himself. During the next thunderstorm, the boys attempt their experiment on the goldfish only to come up with slightly different results. Edgar can't keep Victor's secret for very long and accidentally lets it slip to some of the rival kids in class. They all attempt Victor's experiment on their deceased pets only to have disastrous outcomes resulting in mad chaos and destruction on their peaceful New Holland neighborhood.
The title of the movie may sound familiar to you. Burton first told this story back in 1984 as a live action short film starring Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern. This time around he goes for a black and white stop-motion animation style. This is the same style that was used in The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. I love the use of black and white. Not many children's movies are released in black and white anymore. It fully enhances the gothic look Tim Burton has been known to embrace. He has many homages to some of his previous work like Edward Scissorhands and Batman Returns as well as creature features like Frankenstein and Godzilla. The town of New Holland is identical to the neighborhood in Edward Scissorhands even down to the bushes and luminous hill that the town flocks to at the ending. Burton loves to use many of the same actors in each of his projects. Martin Short, Martin Landau, Catherine O'Hara, and Winona Ryder are all veterans to Burton's imaginative worlds. Danny Elfman is back with a score that reminds us of the beautiful score he wrote for Edward Scissorhands. Frankenweenie is a return to the look and feel of the classic Tim Burton movies that I grew up on. I have been really disappointed in many of his latest movies, but this one really resonated with me. Be warned that while this is an animated kids movie, it is still enjoyable for adults but may be too scary for wee little children.
Opens October 5, 2012
RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)