I Saw A Film Today… Frankenweenie

I blame television for the way people conduct themselves at the theater. To be clear, I believe television to be a wonderful invention and a place in the last few years to have excellent examples of original programming. But the more our plump bodies sit in front of the tele, the more casual we become with voicing our opinions (even as I type this Sportscenter is on in the background). This may explain why the fat family of four who came in late to the showing of Frankenweenie (I, previously, was alone in the theater) found it acceptable to loudly voice their observations on Tim Burton’s latest. Admittedly, if I’m with someone, I will occasionally look over and make a comments, as will they. But not loud enough to ruin the experience of another. Are manners really so ignored in this day and age? Okay, stepping off my soapbox.

Frankenweenie is a retelling of the classic Mary Shelly tale Frankenstein, but with some delightful twists. Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) is an imaginative teen who spends most of his time making super 8 films with his dog Sparky in the suburbia town of New Holland. Vic’s parents (Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short) think he needs to be more sociable, and get him to join the school baseball team. After chasing a ball out of the park at one of the games, Sparky is tragically hit by a passing car.

Days later and under the influence of an idea from his new science teacher Mr.  Rzykruski (Martin Landau), a saddened Victor attempts to resurrect Sparky using kitchen utensils and a lightning storm… and succeeds. Initially Victor tries to keep this a secret but things quickly get out of hand when one of his school chums spills the beans and eventually everyone in his class is bringing back their deceased pets. But instead of merely bringing them back to life, the pets become terrifying B-Movie monsters. Now it’s up to Vic, Sparky, and the girl next door Elsa (Winona Ryder) to save the town.

Tim Burton seems to be at his best when his films are animated. Not that this is his best film but it is up there. It’s funny really… all the things I found annoying about most of Sir Burton’s films when I was a child, I now find enjoyable and fun as an adult. The bobble heads with plate eyes and straw limbs are hard not to fall in love with. The very Burtonesque town of New Holland, presented in stark and beautiful black and white, looks like Edward Scissorhands (another Burton film I probably should revisit to fully appreciate) could live next door.

On the surface, this film simply looks like a retelling of the Frankenstein (pronounced Franque-en-steen) story but adds so many more layers to it. Burton digs into other classic monsters from the genre, such as Godzilla and The Wolf Man. The result is a great mix of 50’s B-movie references while telling a story that we have come to know. It is also a film that somehow finds a way into your heart by showcasing the age-old relationship of a boy and his dog. I have the humility to admit that I got misty-eyed once. Well, twice.

The voice cast is pretty good as well. And, just as an observation, no Jon Jon Depp. Seems there might be legitimacy to my advice about him and Burton taking a break from one another in the Dark Shadows review. Although some Burton alums do return here. Martin Landau, Martin Short, and Winona Ryder all have collaborated before with the director. All do great jobs in their own rights. Charlie Tahan also does a great as the lead. As for whatever dog did the voice of Sparky, kudos to them.

I didn’t see Frankenweenie in 3-D. Then again, I doubt you need to. Not a lot of moments cropped up where I thought “oh, I bet that looks better in 3-D”. Save yourself from diminishing this oddly beautiful film in any way.

Verdict: See it!

*Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images and action. 87 minutes.

 

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