ReviewWriter: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
“The Nightmare Before Christmas”, "James and the Giant Peach" and "Corpse Bride"
After directing a few less-than-positively received films such as "Alice In Wonderland" and "Dark Shadows", the 3D stop-motion animated film "Frankenweenie" is Tim Burton's return to form. It is impossible to discuss the children's comedy-horror film without drawing comparisons with other films, including Burton's previous works, since "Frankenweenie" is a parody of and an homage to the 1931 film "Frankenstein" based on Mary Shelley's book of the same name as well as a remake of Burton's 1984 short film of the same name, which is ironic as Burton was fired by Disney after the short film was completed; since the studio felt that he had wasted company resources and that the film was too scary for young audiences.
Set in the quiet town of New Holland, the black and white film introduces young filmmaker and would-be scientist Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan), who lives with his parents and dog Sparky. Victor has no friends aside from Sparky, which concerns Victor's father, who encourages him to take up baseball and make achievements outside of science. The is the catalyst for the film's premise, for at his first game, Victor hits a home run, and Sparky, pursuing the ball, is subsequently killed by a car. Depressed by Sparky's death, Victor soon learns of a way that may bring his dog back to life, and the experiment turns out to be a success. However, when his hunchbacked classmate Edgar discovers the newly reanimated Sparky, things begin to take a turn for the worse.
"Frankenweenie" makes for a refreshing watch for many reasons. Firstly, Burton does not try to pretend that his film is anything but an entertaining yet endearing story of a boy who just wants to bring his only friend back to life and even emphasises this point in a line in a scene in the film. This is also Burton's excuse for having a multitude of characters with personalities that can be described with a single adjective like Elsa's uncle, Mr. Bergermeister, who is also the grumpy Mayor of New Holland. While this is regrettable, it does not make "Frankenweenie" any less delightful to watch because of their quirkiness and zealous energy.
Secondly, aside from the 1931 film "Frankenstein" based on Mary Shelley's book of the same name, the film also pays homages to many other horror films, such as "The Bride Of Frankenstein" (1935), "Horror Of Dracula" (1958) and "Gremlins" (1984). There are also key figures that are associated with the genre that are referenced in "Frankenweenie", such as Victor's kind next-door neighbour named Elsa van Helsing; Victor's hunchbacked classmate, Edgar "E" Gore, who is an allusion to Igor; one of Victor's rivals who has a flat head inspired by Frankenstein's monster and whose voice resembles that of Boris Karloff; and Mr. Rzykruski, the new eccentric but wise science teacher at Victor's school who bears a resemblance to Vincent Price, an actor known for his distinctive voice and performances in horror films.
Thirdly, "Frankenweenie" is scored by music maestro Danny Elfman, whose soundtrack elevates the film to a step higher than Laika's equally brilliant 3D stop-motion animated comedy horror film, "ParaNorman". The crescendos of music during Sparky's reanimation and the accompaniment in the scene when Victor's parents were watching "Horror Of Dracula" are some examples of his genius that made Burton's film resound with the gothic atmosphere of horror films of old, matching the director's choice of monochromatic aesthetics.
If anything, Burton's eye for detail makes the film even more applaudable, such as the presence of sweat on the characters' brows and the distinctiveness of each character's design, for instance, Toshiaki, Victor's rival and one of his classmates, whose Asian heritage is immediately apparent. The backgrounds are also peppered with Easter eggs such as the "Mars Attacks!" poster in Victor's house and the kite that looks a lot like a Bat-signal.
Overall, "Frankenweenie" may not be perfect by any means, but it is accomplished filmmaking that serves as a reminder for movie fans that Burton is still the gothic auteur that he proved himself to be with "Beetlejuice" (1988), "Edward Scissorhands" (1990) and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993).Cinema Online, 18 October 2012