The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Frankenweenie | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Frankenweenie

Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Christopher Lee, Charlie Tahan

I'll just put it out there; I'm not very familiar with many of Tim Burton's directorial efforts. The only films I've seen, in which Burton was at the wheel, are the immensely underrated "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", and the immensely underperformed "Alice In Wonderland". So while I can't tell you how the stop motion animated "Frankenweenie" ranks in comparison to Burton's other films, I can tell you that this is a very good movie, worth watching but it certainly won't appeal to everyone. The story line may be a bit too disturbing for some (though the PG rating does help constrain it), but teens and adults shouldn't mind.
"Frankenweenie" is actually a remake of a 1984 short film of the same name, produced by Disney, and directed by Burton. If you didn't already know this, you may not be the target audience for this film. Burton was actually fired after making this short film, after it was deemed too dark. Now, nearly 30 years later, we have a remake of the film he was once fired for making. There's an irony there. 
The story follows a boy named Victor, who is devastated when his dog and only friend, Sparky, is hit by a car and dies. In an attempt to revive his companion, Victor tries to resurrect his dog using lightning. Victor succeeds, though some adjustments have to be made, and no one can know about Sparky's re-given life. Still, fellow students discover that Sparky has come back to life, so they attempt to revive their own pets, which brings disastrous results. 
"Frankenweenie" is filmed in black and white, which is an extremely risky move, considering that this is being pitched as a family film, and most kids will not find the lack of pretty colors appealing (if the color choice is keeping you from seeing "Frankenweenie", then this probably isn't the film for you anyway). The color choice is a tribute to old fashioned horror films, and while it may seem gimmicky to some, it really does give "Frankenweenie" a very wonderful retro feel. The retro feel, however, is not only evident in the color palette. Many elements of the story are purposely done to resemble films of yesteryear, which will create some nostalgic moments for older audiences. 
Even though "Frankenweenie" is a "family" film, I can't recommend it for youngsters. The aforementioned black and white won't appeal to them, and "Frankenweenie" can be relatively dark and creepy for a family flick. Plus, there are some "boo" moments which could frighten young ones. Still, only more mature audiences are going to get the most out of the film. Just as last year's "Rango" paid tribute to classic westerns, "Frankenweenie" has boatloads of references from the horror genre. Though horror buffs will benefit the most from this, spook film novices (such as myself) will still get a lot of the in-jokes. Obvious ones like the re-animation of Sparky, the Igor-resembling classmate and other such things should appeal to all members of the audience, while slightly more obscure references will leave more experienced movie-goers chuckling. There's even a Jurassic Park reference! 
The characters in Frankenweenie are instantly memorable and immensely entertaining. While the main characters like Victor and his parents may fall a bit more into the "generic" category, the supporting cast is a riot. The voices for these characters will surely be imitated upon exiting the theater due to the silly accents and often hilarious dialogue. 
The animation, as is often the case in claymation films is absolutely stunning. The frame rate is noticeably higher than that of "Pirates! Band of Misfits", another one of 2012's claymation films. Character designs are extremely amusing, and sight gags are numerous (though perhaps not as plentiful as the aforementioned pirates flick, though it comes close). 
The outrageous characters are made even more hilarious thanks to excellent voice acting. Charlie Tahan is commendable as Victor, while Catherine O'Hara (who is cast as several characters) speaks with much humor. Other voice talents (including Martin Short, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, and Atticus Shaffer) are equally convincing as their characters. 
As one expects from a Tim Burton film, Frankenweenie is scored by Danny Elfman. While Elfman often fails to make his scores too much different than his last, I am pleased to report that Frankenweenie feels quite a bit different than his other scores. Similarities are still very much evident, but this score is nowhere near as similar as his scores for "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Alice In Wonderland". "Frankenweenie" also boasts a much more playful mood than Elfman's other work, which is extremely welcome. 
As a side note, I saw this is in 2D, and I noticed very few segments that could've made use of 3D. However, because "Frankenweenie" is in black and white, I can't imagine any color blurring. I would stick to 2D, though.
"Frankenweenie" is absolutely delightful. Gorgeous animation, hilarious characters, and boatloads of film references provide an entertaining 87 minutes. Plus, it has plenty of heart to contrast the creepy and darker elements of the story. "Frankenweenie" won't appeal to everyone, but animation lovers and movie buffs will have a scream.

Joshua LF Mitchell