Growing up, I had a dog that I can safely say I considered my best friend. He was there for me in the hardest of times, and he was always excited to see me. His name was Lucky and he was someone who was always part of everything I did. That’s like young Victor in today’s movie review: which follows Victor‘s pet dog Sparky [who stars in Victor‘s home-made movies] after he is suddenly hit by a car. As a fan of monster films, Victor decides the best bet is to bring him back to life, in the only way he knows how. But when the bolt-necked Sparky wreaks havoc and terror in the hearts of the neighbors, Victor has to convince them that despite his appearance, Sparky is still the good loyal friend he’s always been. This movie has a lot of heart, and as a fan of Tim Burton, I was really happy when I saw it in theaters back in 2012! It’s a tad bit depressing though, so take that with a grain of salt. This, is Frankenweenie.
Before this one was released, I am actually a huge fan of the original 1984 short film of the same title, so naturally, news of a feature length feature was very exciting to me. When you watch this “version”, it’s obvious from both Frankenweenies that director Tim Burton holds this story very close to his heart. The obvious assumption is that young Victor Frankenstein has much in common with the Burton‘s childhood experiences.. being as both claim to be social misfits who find joy in less than popular ways; such as science, sci-fi/monster films and film making.
The story begins simply enough, Victor – a socially awkward boy – whose only ‘real’ friend is his loyal dog Sparky, quickly connects with his new science teacher, Mr. Rzykroski. [who you can tell is based off the late, and wonderful, Vincent Price] Sadly, Victor‘s parents try to get him more engaged with others his age, which leads to a tragic accident that ends with the death of Sparky. [that..got depressing really quick!] Like anyone, Victor is heart-broken but fear not! He takes the lessons he learned in Rzykroski‘s science class, as well as his scientific mind, to make a contraption to “spark Sparky” thanks to a lightning storm outside. Soon enough, Sparky is back! But, of course, being as they’re in a small town; the secret gets out and school Science Fair takes on quite a competitive nature – I mean, this kid just brought his dog back from the dead! That’s pretty damn impressive!
What makes this movie so great is that Burton treats the film as an homage to old monster, horror and sci-fi films – and it’s obvious too! We get nods to Frankenstein, The Mummy, Dracula, [who’s even voiced by the late, Christopher Lee!] Godzilla, Bride Of Frankenstein, Gremlins, and Jurassic Park. And those are the ones I noticed! But this movie is just – so much more. Mr. Rzykroski gives a speech to the local townspeople explaining the situation, and though it is straight to the point, it’s lost on these fine folks. The importance of science and accepting the differences of others is all mentioned in one of the greatest ways, but best of all: it’s not in a preachy way!
The voice work is fantastic thanks to the likes of Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Winona Ryder, Charlie Tahan, and Martin Landau; just to name a few. [that’s right, one of Burton‘s greatest films, has no hints of Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter! Blasphemy, I know!] The style and textures that are visible in the film are beyond extraordinary! Seeing the shadows and lighting effects provide an atmosphere that adds just enough creepiness, but not to the point of ever feeling like it’s overdone.. The details involved with each of the characters is remarkable for a film that’s entirely stop-motion animation. If that doesn’t get your attention, how many movies have you seen recently that include a cat-bat, sea monkeys, and a giant turtle that echoes the idea of Gamera? I didn’t think so! The suburban setting of New Holland is almost identical to the neighborhood seen in Burton‘s Edward Scissorhands, another of my favorites, just without the colors, obviously.
As you can probably tell, I love this movie. It’s an excellent choice of entertainment for both adults and children alike. But the problem is, being in black and white, has meant a heavy lack of interest from today’s kids. It has some dark humor to it, but the PG rating, and Disney name means you should probably not expect anything too heavy. Either way, this is Tim Burton at his very finest.. and without Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter, this makes it even better! [and I’m a fair sized fan of both of them!] Also, with Danny Elfman‘s score perfectly complimenting the story and characters, it adds to the quirkiness that is Frankenweenie. It’s something that needs to be seen to believe. It’s crazy, it’s fun, and it’s adorable. Though, as I said, by the films end: it feels somewhat depressing. Especially having to see Victor move on from the loss of his best friend.
So please, check out Frankenweenie. It’s arguably one of my favorite Tim Burton films, and the stylizing is beyond beautiful. It’s got a great message to it, and with many hints to other horror films; how could you say no? Now I ask you: what do you think of Frankenweenie? Is it a family friendly film that everyone should see at least once? Or is it far too depressing? Let me know your thoughts in a comment or two! Also, if you enjoyed this review, I actually wrote about a popular theory that’s been passing through the internet lately, that claims Frankenweenie is part of a trilogy! [but is it?] Be sure to read that, over here!
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THANKS FOR READING.