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Sunday, October 7, 2012

"Frankenweenie:" Tim Burton's Early Halloween Treat for the Young and Old [REVIEW]

Few things are as touching as a little boy and his dog. Or, if Tim Burton has anything to do with it, nothing is as hauntingly and deliciously evil as a boy bringing his dead dog back to life with old-fashioned electroshock lightning.

Such is the basis of Burton's latest dark tale, Frankenweenie, inspired by his 1984 short film of the same name. The movie, which has similar themes as Pet Sematary/Frankenstein, delightfully incorporates childhood elements with a sinister yet nostalgic story filmed in stunning black and white stop motion that fits in nicely with the true essence of Halloween. Burton collects his own quirky brand of characters any true fan of his would appreciate--the awkward girl, Elsa (voiced to perfection by Winona Ryder), her counterpart, Victor (Charlie Tahan as our young hero), and the oddly genius science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau)--to unleash a cinematic feast for the eyes.

10-year-old Victor Frankenstien, an outcast from the popular crowd, finds happiness making homemade films up in his family's attic and presenting them to his adoring audience--his parents and loyal dog, Sparky. While his folks, especially his mother Mrs. Frankenstien (Catherine O'Hara), are proud he's exploring his creativity, she worries that he's becoming a bit of a loner. Victor's father (Martin Short) tries to get his son involved in sports or any other activity that gets him out of the attic but, even though he tries to please his dad, he finds the most comfort spending time alone and playing with his pup.

But that changes when Sparky dies in a horrible accident, leaving Victor devastated and bewildered. He becomes further withdrawn in class and at school, until one day Mr. Rsykruski (gotta love that name) introduces him to the idea that science (specifically electricity  can resurrect things from the death. Inspired, Victor then embarks on an experiment of his own to resurrect his beloved Sparky, which has startling effects. Sparky, patched up and with nails coming out of either side of his head, is in decent condition (despite what he's been through), but once word gets out that Victor was able to achieve the impossible, it ignites a ripple effect in town. All the kids, which include Victor's hunchback frenemy Edgar "E" Gore (hilariously voiced by Atticus Shaffer) and fellow classmates Bob (Robert Capron) and Toshiaki (James Hiroyuki Liao), find themselves running for their lives in the grand revival of a Halloween (complete with legendary spooks) for which none of them bargained.

Even with a wistful lens that complements a familiar story, Frankenweenie still manages to be fresh and appealing for a young audience. While children will squeal when Mr. Rsykruski's pencil-shaped head enters the scene and they hear his monstrous voice, or when Edgar deviously shouts You're dog is alive! as he slumps over revealing only one of three teeth, adults will appreciate how Burton rejuvenates an eighty-one year old story a facelift without compromising its throwback look. Everything from the lighting to the movement of the characters will captivate audiences member all the way through the film's surprise ending. It's simple, wickedly entertaining, thoughtful, and tells the story in a new way that will remain timeless for the new generation.

While a movie like Hugo, which was equally nostalgic but less mindful of its audience, likely went over kids' heads, Frankenweenie beautifully merges the old with the new as it also celebrates filmmaking both literally and fictionally with its relatable protagonist.

Rating: B+


Daniel said...

Sounds like it really makes for an impressive movie watching experience, I really need to find sometime to watch it.

Dan O. said...

Good review Candice. Being a dog lover definitely helps this flick's story a lot more, but also does the love and knowledge for the old-school horror movies that Burton so obviously loves. Great return-to-form for him, let's just hope he can keep it going.

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