Film Review : Frankenweenie
● By Justin Buettner
Victor, a creative middle school aged boy who happens to have the last name Frankenstein, loses his best friend, his dog Sparky, to a car accident. With inspiration from his new science teacher Victor brings Sparky back to life by using lightening, but after his secret gets out among his school mates they all start bringing their lost pets back to life with unexpected results.
Tim Burton started his career with this story back in 1984 as a live action short film (that can be seen in the special edition content on the Nightmare Before Christmas DVD or Blu-Ray). Adapting this story to a full length stop motion film seemed like a stretch to me, but I should not have worried. Frankenweenie displays the magic that Tim Burton films have when he's at his best, taking the macabre and somehow making it come across innocent, fun, and interesting.
Early in Tim Burton's career he had a string of small scale hits that featured strange characters from his imagination based on likable and misunderstood monsters. These early movies are hands down the best movies of his career. Movies like Edward Scissorhands, Beatlejuice and Nightmare Before Christmas all had similar Halloween themes and characters set in normal American suburbia and featured how the strange and the normal learned to understand one and another. Frankenweenie definitely fits in nicely with these movies.
One of the best aspects of Frankenweenie is that Tim Burton loves each character, even the ones who could be considered the villains. So while the characters may do bad things, none of them are truly portrayed as evil. This gives what could easily be a very dark movie, a innocent charm. The respect for the characters gives them all unique and interesting personalities. Every character in Frankenweenie, no matter how small of a part they have in the film, beam with quirkiness.
As a fan of the classic horror movies, Tim Burton packs the film with classic monster references, including but not limited to each character's last name. My favorite was the character design of the science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski, who was clearly designed after Burton's idol Vincent Price. This character steals the best scene of the film, where he stands before city council and attempts to defend his peculiar style of science.
This is a definite return to Tim Burton's early work, so if you are a Tim Burton fan you will love this movie. Will kids today like this movie? Sure, it's a great Halloween film for a younger crowd too, although it does have some sequences that may frighten some of the younger children. Frankenweenie reminded me a lot of Gremlins, a film with a lot of laughs and a few thrills thrown in but all in good fun. One thing is certain, Universal should be begging Burton to revive their classic monster movies with the energy, style and tone he presented within this film. Frankenweenie is hands down my favorite animated film of the year.
Films like Frankenweenie - Gremlins, Edward Scissorhands, and Nightmare Before Christmas
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.