Frankenweenie sure feels like a deeply personal film for Tim Burton, the world’s favorite outsider director. It is, after all, a touch-up of his 1984 short film of the same name. This one comes up with the full Disney works: 3D, stop-motion, and daring black-and-white (I can only imagine the pitch meeting). Featuring a striking take on vintage black-and-white films, what we end up with is a devilishly entertaining tribute to 50’s monster flicks and Burton’s own ghoulish creations throughout his career.
After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog, Sparky, Victor (voiced by Charlie Tahan) has pretty much lost his only friend. His parents (voiced by Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short) urge him to let Sparky go and move on, but he can’t. That is, until adventuresome and creepy science teacher Mr. Ryzkruski (voiced by a phenomenal Martin Landau) teaches the class about the power of electricity and how anatomies react to it. Using a bunch of stuff from around the house, Victor re-animates Sparky, only to have him run loose around town.
Burton and co-writer John August mix black comedy with kid-friendly (well, except the real little ones) frights well. Clocking in at a tight eighty-seven minutes, there are enough in-jokes and bizarre characters to keep things interesting as the film stumbles through a by-the-numbers second act before unleashing the craziness in the final half-hour. There’s enough menace throughout that it feels like this story warrants a darker ending, but this is Disney after all. After a string of disappointments, it’s nice to see Burton get back to his bread and butter: giving us a demented blend of laughs, drama, and scares.
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Length: 87 Minutes
Rating: PG for thematic elements, scary images and action.
Theatrical Release: October 5, 2012
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Tim Burton & John August. Based upon Burton’s 1984 short film of the same name.
Cast: Catherine O’Hara (voice), Martin Short (voice), Martin Landau (voice), Winona Ryder (voice), Charlie Tahan (voice)