Ashley and Drew take a look at Timmy B’s latest dark-paletted masterpiece “Frankenweenie”.
By Ashley Hillard
Losing a pet, especially as a socially awkward young boy, is a terrible thing to experience. Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan – Charlie St. Cloud) goes through a traumatic loss when he loses his best friend, Sparky (voiced by Frank Welker, who has an impressive list of VO credits). His eccentric science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (voiced by Martin Landau) inspires Victor to attempt to reanimate his beloved dog. All does not go as planned, however, when an irritating loner at the school, Edgar ‘E’ Gore (voiced by Atticus Shaffer) forces Victor to give up his secret so he can try to win the science fair competition.
Writer and director Tim Burton (Dark Shadows) has caught a lot of flack in recent years for less than inspired filmmaking, with similarly darkly themed films and reoccurring cast members (including Landau and an underused Winona Ryder as Elsa Van Helsing). Based on his original short film, Frankenweenie is the most exciting Burton film in some time. The eccentric band of characters include great voiceover work by Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short and exciting visuals that are very similar to, but different enough from Burton’s other classics, Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Frankenweenie is based on Burton’s original short and wraps heavy themes, including the ethics of science and small minds driving science out of education, in with the sweet tale of a boy who loves his dog enough to bring him back from beyond. One of the most endearing characters, aside from Sparky and Victor, is a girl simply called Weird Girl and her psychic cat. They bring strange humor to all of their scenes, thanks to the brilliant art department and animation department that brought them all to life. Writer John August (Dark Shadows) does a nice job of expanding Frankenweenie’s story and balancing dark themes with some twisted comedic elements and wrapping it up before it felt too long. As always, Danny Elfman’s score accentuates the story and brings musical depth to Burton’s visuals.
All and all, a fun film that kids should enjoy as it arrives just in time for Halloween. Hopefully this film gets Burton fans, new and old, excited about his other upcoming projects, which should include more of his original ideas. Maybe even a Beetlejuice sequel.
By Mike Smith
In 1984 a young filmmaker working at the Walt Disney Company made a short film that featured a young boy recreating the “Frankenstein” story by resurrecting his recently deceased dog from the dead. Horrified at the completed film, Disney fired the filmmaker, declaring the film too scary for its young audiences. The film was called “Frankenweenie” and the filmmaker was a 26 year old named Tim Burton. Almost three decades later, and the past being in the past, Disney gave Burton a boatload of money to create a feature length version of the film, with all of the style and quirks that make it a Tim Burton film. And the studio certainly got their money’s worth!
Victor Frankenstein (Tahan) is a quiet kid who makes his own home movies and enjoys science. But the thing that makes him happiest is his dog, Sparky. The two are inseparable. As Victor prepares for the upcoming science fair his father (Short) convinces him to give baseball a try. Against all odds Victor knocks the ball into the street where, sadly, Sparky tries to retrieve it. Sparky is struck by a car and killed. After the funeral Victor lies in bed missing his friend. “I’m sorry about Sparky,” his mother (O’Hara) tells him. “If we could bring him back we would.” Victor quickly begins to think. Then, to quote Gru in “Despicable Me” – “LIGHT BULB!”
Presented in black and white and accented by a great Danny Elfman score, “Frankenweenie” is a heart-tugging classic featuring Burton at the top of his game. The inclusion of some fine 3D imagery makes it THE film to see during the Halloween season. The animation is classic Burton – none of his characters look alike. There are tall people, short people – fat and skinny people. There are also pets that take on the characteristics of their humans. The story is familiar to anyone that knows the history of the Frankenstein family and the vocal cast brings it to life brilliantly. Besides the three leads, stellar work is turned in by Atticus Shaffer, Frank Welker and old Burton company members Martin Landau and Winona Ryder.
I should mention that the film may get a little scary for younger viewers due to the subject matter so parents be prepared to explain some things to your little ones.