Tim Burton’s stop-motion animated “Frankenweenie” is the story of a young boy whose dog gets killed when hit by a car. Young Victor doesn’t want to accept the fact that his dog is gone, however, and instead attempts something based on what he learned in science class… and winds up successfully bringing his dog back from the dead.
It’s obviously a very personal film for Tim Burton, you can feel the affection he had for this project pouring through. Even though it borrows from and contains many allusions to the classic monster movies of yore, it’s also his most original film in years. The character designs are all great, and the film that definitely has an abundance of heart and charm. While it doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of greatness, it’s a very enjoyable and unique film, and definitely worth checking out.
Young Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) is a bit of a loner. He doesn’t have any friends, and is happy to spend time making his amateur movies, or playing with his dog, Sparky. When his father talks him into playing baseball, tragedy ensues. His faithful dog is killed in the street.
Victor is crushed, of course. Despite the consolation of his parents (Martin Short, and Catherine O’Hara), he’s a despondent little boy. Shortly thereafter, though, his Eastern European science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (in a hysterical turn by Martin Landau) demonstrates that how an electric charge running through a dead frog can trigger muscular responses. That’s all Victor needs to hear. He sneaks off to the pet cemetery late at night, digs up his dog’s corpse, sneaks it home, and hooks it up to a homemade Frankenstein’s laboratory. When the experiment is a success, however, Victor is faced with an entirely new set of challenges… namely, keeping his re-animated dog a secret and fending off all his classmates who want to replicate his experiment.
This movie is loaded with easter eggs for fans of classic horror films, and of Tim Burton’s prior movies. Winona Ryder is even given a relatively meaningless, token voice role, and the neighborhood the boy lives in is remarkably similar to Edward Scissorhands’, amongst other things. There are tons of references and allusions to be found to classic monster films. When the experiment starts catching on around town and other sorts of creatures begin appearing, it’s madcap monster-filled fun. A wide variety of the classic monsters get parodied… from the mummy, to vampires, to Godzilla-sized Kaijus.
The character design is wonderful. Text book Tim Burton stuff. Everyone is twisted in some way, whether it’s big, unblinking eyes, a row of gangly buck teeth, or being so fat as to be completely round, each of the characters is unique looking in a slightly misshapen fashion. “Frankenweenie” also has that signature Tim Burton tone. It’s slightly morbid, and dark, but ultimately sweet. The boy’s necro-scientific experimentation is motivated by love for his dog, and that carries all the way through the film.
“Frankenweenie” really doesn’t have the most in-depth plot or anything, but given the combination of the wonderful animation, the unique tone, and the love that went into it shining through… it’s definitely a movie worth your time.