Cert: PG Runtime: 87 mins Director: Tim Burton Starring: Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Winona Ryder and Martin Landau
Your dog is aliiive!
So yeah Tim Burton, you know I worship this man. Frankenweenie is a film 30 years in the making, originally from 1984 Burton raises his story from the dead. The story revolves around a boy named Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) and his dog Sparky. The two live in New Holland where Victor pursues his interests in film and science with great passion. Victor’s father (Martin Short) encourages Victor to try out for sports as well and at his first baseball game Sparky is struck by a car (and killed) while chasing after a home run ball Victor hit in to the parking lot. Unable to move on and forget his fallen best friend Victor decides to use science, and the lessons taught to him by his teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau), to bring his dog back to life. When he succeeds (using the electricity from lightning) all seems right in the world again until his friend, Edgar ‘E’ Gore (Atticus Shaffer), starts snooping around and Sparky starts disturbing his parents and their neighbors. Victor then has to prove to his family and the town that Sparky is not a monster in order to save his resurrected dog once again.
What drives this movie is it’s heart. Victor’s love towards Sparky is very apparent, and Sparky is such an innocent little thing, that it’s hard not to like him. The characterization for Sparky is perfect, having him easily excitable and sweet, but not obnoxious, as dogs can be. This movie should especially hit home for those who’ve previously or currently have/had a dog. The scene where Sparky is hit by a car is heart breaking, and the ending will also stir a lot of emotions in you. Sparky is such a loyal, caring and innocent dog, where anything that happens to him, you immediately begin to empathize. The visual style is what you’d expect from Mr. Burton. Either characters look emaciated with long bony arms and stretched out faces, or they’re morbidly obese with fat sprouting from their back. It works well, and sometimes for comedic effect, like that of Weird Girl’s cat Mr. Whiskers, which brings laughs to every scene it’s in. Burton rides the line on character designs often between unique and slightly grotesque, but the line is never crossed here. These characters are unique, and they inhabit a visually appealing world. To give the characters life, are the voice actors, all of whom are superb. Especially good are Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short who provide three voices, all of them unique to their characters.
If there’s something wrong with the picture, it might be that Victor and his family are the least interesting characters here. Victor is a fine lead, because he has these bizarre classmates and his dog to support him, but by himself, he would be a fairly flat character. Perhaps this is to make him and his family more of the typical townsfolk type, while most of the other major characters are strange looking homages to movie monsters, and have a lot more personality in general. But, if Victor was more bubbly and bouncy, he wouldn’t be the kind of quiet introvert that he is here, so it’s a double edged sword. This is a small complaint really, and it’s not something that will bother most people.”Frankenweenie” has the ability to draw on the audience’s own personal nostalgia for their own furry lost loved one’s, but even those that aren’t dog people should feel something here. This is a very sweet film, beneath it’s monster movie exterior, and at the heart of the picture is a boy who loves his dog and doesn’t want to lose him. Any fans of old monster movies should love the references, and any fan of Burton’s past work should find some pleasure in the visual look here. Even Burton detractors may find this one hits pretty close to home for them.