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Tim Burton goes back to the well in this remake of his quirky, ill-fated 1984 short film. Although its visual approach is quite different, trading kitschy live action for super-stylized stop motion, the first two acts are virtually unchanged. And while that dedication to the core concept surely deserves some praise, it also feels a bit thin for a ninety-minute feature. When it's not tossing out pocketfuls of sugary homage or good-natured parody, the plot seems startlingly content to just hang around and gaze back at the audience, right up until the climax arrives to slam on the gas and give us all a bad case of whiplash. A star-studded cast of underachieving voice actors doesn't help matters, either - Winona Ryder is particularly dry and soulless as the quiet, mumbling girl next door, and we never see quite enough of Catherine O'Hara or Martin Short. The animation work is top-notch, though, serving as a nice reminder that not everything needs to be computer generated to succeed in modern Hollywood.
I was fortunate enough to have seen "Frankenweenie" on its release in
3D along with my son, who was overjoyed and loved it. Definitely a
movie that kids will connect with and love. Even though its in black
and white (to keep with Frankenstein tradition), the movie still holds
your attention in these two colors.
It was truly exceptional to see in 3D and worth the extra ticket price. Tim Burton has outdone himself on this film, much better quality than some of his previous work, including "The Nightmare Before Christmas" in 1993.
Comparable to his 1984 short (Frankenweenie starring Daniel Stern and Shelly Duvall) however, this film adds extra plot points and an extended monster sequence. I especially liked the voice cast for this film. Even though they are stock actors for Burton, Winona Ryder and Catherine O'Hara stood out in this foray into animation. The best voice over that I heard was that of Martin Short, a great comedic actor.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Frankenweenie is a Disney children's movie that has a dark twist. The main characters that the movie revolves around are Victor played by Charlie Tahon and his dog Sparky played by Frank Welker. Victor attends a local school where it shows him in his science class taught by Mr. Rzyeruski played by Martin Landau. There are other students in his class that have pets of their own. Each of the children's pets seems to have similar characteristics of the child. Elsa Van Helsing played by Winona Ryder and her dog Persephone played by Dee Bradley Baker have dark black hair that is tall and puffy. Victor and his dog sparky both are energetic and playful. The weird girl played by Catherine O'Hara and her cat Mr. Whiskers played by Dee Bradley Baker have large white eyes and are both pale white. The similar characteristics between the children and theirs pets show the closeness and the love that the children have for their pets. The unique characteristics are similar to the characters in The Nightmare Before Christmas. The theme of the movie is about a young boy Victor who brings his dog sparky back to life but doesn't realize what the negative effects a science experiment can have. Victor's dog Sparky died unexpectedly when he ran in the road to get a ball and was hit by a car. Victor was upset by the loss of his dog and would do anything to bring him back. When victor was in science class his teacher conducted an experiment using electricity. The teacher used a dead frog to show how electricity could pulsate the muscles. Victor ran home from school the build and experiment using small kitchen appliances any anything else he was able to grab. Victor waited until the evening when it started to rain and lighting started to strike. He then placed sparky on lift he built and lifted him in the sky through a window in the attic. The lighting struck and his contraption started to work and the lighting struck sparky and brought him back to life. Victor tries to keep his experiment of bringing Sparky back to life a secret but that doesn't last for long. Edgar E Gore spotted Sparky and he could not keep a secret. Edgar convinced Victor that he wouldn't tell anybody about Sparky if he told him how he brought him back to life. Victor showed Edgar how he did it with a dead fish. When Victor conducted the experiment the results were an invisible fish that was mean. Edgar thought this was really cool and had to show everyone. The other students in their class found out about this and wanted to do same thing so they could win the Science fair. The outcome was not what the children were expecting. The animals were brought back to life and they were mean and scary.
Tim Burton's career took off with his creation of the original film
"Frankenweenie". It was a very cute and sweet short filma homage to
the horror films of yesteryear. Now, more than two decades later,
Burton is back with a remake
.of sorts. In fact, although the title is
the same and the first half of the film is quite similar, it is much
more a re-imagining of the original. The last portion, oddly, bore no
resemblance to the original
and in this portion, the film became
tedious. In fact, it was so bad I am shocked that it was
Oscar-nominatedespecially when better films (such as "ParaNorman")
could have been nominated instead.
Like the first film, a boy's beloved dog is struck and killed by a car. And, the strange boy decides to revive it using Frankenstein-like contraptions that zap the carcass with electricity. This is much of the film. Then there is the new materialwhere several kids from school also decide to create their own undead creations in order to win a science fair. Unfortunately, the kids all end up creating monsters that terrorize, very briefly, the city. In the end, all is well .and I was thrilled that the film was finally over!
So why did I dislike the film? Well, it certainly wasn't the look of the film. Using stop-motion, they created a very imaginative black & white world that you have to like even if the plot itself is stale and the new material is simply awful. At least the art department deserves kudos. As far as the story goes, the biggest problem isn't that they changed the original story (I expected they would)it's that the fun and comedy of the original film was non-existent and in its place was cliché-ridden and joyless romp. And, while I am not a huge fan of political correctness, I thought the way the Asian kid was portrayed was cheap and very stereotypical (his creation turned into Gamerathe Japanese monster who often battled the likes of Godzilla). Overall, apart from the artistry, I thoroughly disliked this film and STRONGLY recommend you see the originalwhich is very clever, fresh and fun. Or, see one of Tim Burton's good stop-motion films, like "A Nightmare Before Christmas" or "The Corpse Bride".
By the way, you might wonder why I even watched this film. Well, I was on a Disney cruise and the movie was freeso it isn't like I paid to see it. If I had, I am sure my score would have been lover than 4.
I was one of the seemingly few people who was very familiar with the short film years before this installment, as I had watched it a good few times on TV. That, plus my love for dogs, Disney, and Tim Burton's stop motion animation, had me all set for this movie. And may I say it gave me exactly what I wanted! The flow and pace of it is admirable and the tone and plot are very unique. The characters are nice, especially Sparky, of course, who's a total cutie pie to watch. While it has it's weird parts as I expected, they work for the movie. While I can't call it a favorite of mine, It was in that "between good and really good" category, so I would recommend it. Some people try to stay away from it thinking it's too dark, and, while it may be for some kids, if you're an adult and don't like those kinds of movies, you may still actually like this one.
Watch this film. It is tender, loving, interesting, different,
beautiful, funny, charming, sweet, creative, entertaining, stimulating,
scary, warm, sad, beautiful, dark, light, inventive, irreverent and
here is how: Tender & loving between the lead and the subject:
Interesting and different in its pace and unfolding, always holds you.
Beautiful in its ability to inject really accurate humanity: Funny
right from the start and in awkward twists: Charming in major roles and
supporting of the leads feelings. Sweet (see Tender), Creative (see
Interesting), Entertaining is a summary: Stimulating on many levels,
from sentiment to adrenaline (all from a lounge chair): Scary because
accidents do happen. Warm in the resolution to the tragedy: Sad when
the unthinkable happens, Beautiful in the leads conquering of the
impossible, for love: Dark, in the suggestion of reanimation: Light its
family viewing and scenarios make it refreshing: Inventive in its use
of form and disbanding from colour: Irreverent, in its depiction of
Oh, did I mention this is a brilliant movie ?
The first half of the movie is terrific fun. We have Victor Frankenstein who is precocious and loves Science. He has a dog called Sparky. His Science teacher tells him that there is a Science Fair to be held in town. One day while playing Baseball on the insistence of his father, Victor hits the ball out of bounds. Old Sparky rushes for it and has a fatal accident with a car. While listening to the talk of his Science teacher, Victor realizes that he can use electricity to reanimate his dog. He starts preparing for it. The second half of the movie is a sort of a letdown because of the shift in focus from Victor to others in the town who also start thinking about bringing dead animals alive. There is an interlude about ostracizing those who are different. The movie shifts the goal post in the middle of the game and for me that is going to hurt its chance at the Golden Globe and the Oscars where it should be nominated. The story is a clever take on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. There are settings and scenes which are homage to it. If only the pacing and the story of the latter part would have been better, this would have turned into a mini classic. This is a more than decent watch. 3/5
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm 48 years old, and I sobbed over this movie, several times :o) And I'm proud :o) It struck a chord, reminded me a lot of Edward Scissorhands, which I also sobbed over, when I was 24!! Believe me I'm not so soppy usually! What a shame, that person that rated this with one star because she didn't read the movie details which could have saved her getting upset about two 10 year old's crying over it, the DOG DIES!!! But........... I love all the little bits, Christopher Lee's Hammer Horror Dracula, obviously the ending had to be at the windmill, love the cat poo letters, just so much quirkiness & sentimentality all wrapped into one :oD Very happy I watched it, it was better than ParaNorman :ox
Before Tim Burton cemented his status in Hollywood with 'Peewee's Big
Adventure' and 'Beetlejuice', the well-known eccentric director made a
live-action black-and-white film called 'Frankenweenie' in 1984. That
short has been expanded to feature-length proportions here thanks to
frequent Burton collaborator/ screenwriter John August and this
classic love story between a boy and his dog loses none of its Burton-
esque charm in the process.
August retains the concept of Burton's earlier short in the first half of the movie, where we are introduced to Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan), a shy, socially awkward but brilliant geek whose best friend is his faithful bull terrier named Sparky. The only child of Mr and Mrs Frankenstein (Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara respectively), Victor lives with his parents in the perfect American suburb of New Holland, where in his free time he makes Super 8 films with his toys, improvised props and of course Sparky.
His life is turned upside down one day when Sparky dies in an auto accident while chasing his baseball down a street - and just as in the short, Sparky is buried under a large tombstone at the top of the hill in a creepy cemetery. Nonetheless, Victor's grief turns out to be short- lived watching his Vincent Price-inspired science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (voiced by Martin Landau) apply an electric current to make a dead frog move its legs, Victor is inspired to do likewise to bring Sparky back to life by using lightning in the midst of a thunderstorm.
Needless to say, Victor's experiment is successful and after a scene that directly recalls 'Frankenstein', Sparky is back none the worse for the wear, save for a number of visible stitches and screws around his body. Before we get to the part where Victor's parents find out what he's done, August comes up with a whole new second act not in Burton's short. A science fair is coming up, and all the other local kids want to emulate Victor's breakthrough whether it is to their pet cat in the case of Victor's next-door neighbour simply named Weird Girl (O'Hara again) or to one of the other pets in the cemetery long buried in the case of Victor's loathsome schoolmate Edgar (Atticus Shaffer).
The reanimating game allows Burton's imagination to go wild, as all manner of monsters from the cinematic world of creature features descend upon the quiet town to terrorise its folk at a night fair. Burton's love for the genre is palpable, squeezing in multiple references to the classics of yesteryear besides the evil beasties from 'Gremlins', a 'Godzilla-like' monster also appears courtesy of Japanese-American kid Toshiaki's (James Hiroyuki Liao) late pet turtle. Nonetheless, their inclusion does make the climax more bloated than it probably should have been though fans aren't likely to mind the nostalgia.
Neither are followers of Burton-esque likely to mind as always, the characters are winsomely eccentric both in manner and more so in design. Moulded in the signature Burton style of 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' and 'Corpse Bride', they have stick-thin limbs atop elongated egg-shaped faces with golf-ball like eyes, and in their uniquely weird and wonderful looks are not only differentiated from each other but given a unique personality.
But Burton's visual achievement here goes way beyond the character design for the first time, he has chosen to adopt a monochrome palette for the movie, a stylistic choice that might seem alienating at first for the modern-day audience so accustomed to stories told in rich dynamic colours but really an artistically inspired one that accentuates the very telling of the tale. The shadings and shadows are handled beautifully here, and kudos to Burton and his art directors Tim Browning and Alexander Walker for creating a visually stunning world just in black and white.
If Burton's eye for the macabre is just as sharp here as with most of his movies, what ultimately makes this stand out from the rest is genuine poignancy. Victor is no less a misfit than the lead protagonist from his other films, but the central bond here between a boy and his dog that goes to the heart of just how much one is willing to do for the other is a love story that is relatable to young and old alike. Sure, there will be some scenes that may scare younger audiences given its inclination as a homage to the creature horror subgenre, but this is also one of Burton's most moving films, and such an enthralling fantasy deserves to be enjoyed by the whole family.
Director Tim Burton returns to his visceral dark roots with
Frankenweenie, a animated film that features all the dark, brooding
themes he is famous for, in what would seem like an opportunity for the
story teller to deal with all his favourite, classical horror elements
all in one fall swoop. With Disney's backing, Burton crafts a somewhat
charming little film inspired primarily by Frankenstein, dealing with
the artificial creation of life and how this whacks nature out of
balance, although one can almost feel that his direction probably got
superseded in the final moments to toe the line, given that mass market
merchandising, or the lack thereof, is probably the compromise reached.
Face it, the characters here aren't really plush toy material, even though they are grotesquely beautiful to look at, with physical flaws that seem perfect. As usual, like the animated films that feature his involvement, the characters here aren't designed to be anatomically correct with their longer than usual limbs. Being in black, white and grey, it provides that old school look and hopefully elevated this film to that nostalgic status of old, ringing with the air of familiarity for elements that you've probably experienced especially if you're a classic horror movie fan.
As the story would have already been suggested by its trailer, it centers around a boy, Vincent Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) whose dog Sparky had passed away, only for Vincent, a smart boy with scientist potential, emulating his namesake to resurrect his pet dog, and succeeding. He tries to keep this undead version of Sparky under wraps, only for the antics of the dog to be discovered, and from there, having his peers, who are all vying for best science project, trying to emulate what he had done, with vastly different results.
Here's when you can see what had inspired Burton, or had been his favourites, as the story took on homage paying moments especially when the story went on its own little spree to have loads of fun. Tributes got paid to the likes of a Godzilla-wannabe, critters, and characters that were amongst the same level of recognition as Frankenstein, in addition to a whole slew of name dropping. Even the science teacher Mr Rzykruski (Martin Landau), looked very much and unmistakably like Burton's tip of the hat to one of his heroes, Vincent Price, who is straight talking, and providing a stinging criticism against those who are closed minded, and superstitious, clinging on to values of the old without the guts for exploration and scientific adventure. Those who follow blindly, or copying without full understanding, are also put under the spotlight, and it's little wonder how the chief reverse engineer happens to be Asian.
But it's not all formula, facts and numbers. Frankenweenie, like most of Burton's films, no matter how dark they may look and feel, contains plenty of heart. While the hinted at love story between Vincent and Elsa (Winona Ryder) was almost non-existent, being but neighbours who communicate through a hole in the picket fence, it is the bond between boy and dog, and the extent one will go for the other, that moved, even if, like Frankenstein's tale, the whole world goes after them, being some bastardized by product of nature. But outside of these two characters, the support cast was woefully one-noted, and largely wallpaper.
While this film marks the umpteenth time that Burton has had Danny Elfman score his film, it is with a heavy heart, as a fan of their partnership, to listen to moments that seem lifted from their Batman score, and being repeated so obviously during the film's finale that you'd wonder if Elfman had finally run out of steam with the lack of inspiration in coming up with new tunes that dance around similar themes. I guess one can only recycle to a certain degree, before being dangerously left exposed.
I had enjoyed the quirky tales and characters that Tim Burton had the knack to conjure in his mind, but Frankenweenie, despite being nice to look at with moments that will touch your heart, as a whole still felt as an unfulfilled potential. One can only hope Burton's next effort will be as inspirational as his earlier ones.
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