If you only ever see one Tim Burton film in your life this should be it. A black and white stop motion animation, Frankenweenie neatly encapsulates the spirit of Burton’s career so far. The movie is a loving homage to the cheesy black and white B grade horror films of yesteryear with more references to the genre than you can poke a stick at.
We are introduced to young Victor Frankenstein, a quirky loner in the mold of many of Burton’s previous heroes. Lean and pale with dark rimmed eyes and a shock of black hair, Victor bares more than a passing resemblance to the Cure’s Robert Smith, as does Burton’s best known creation Edward Scissorhands. The movie’s setting, the hamlet of New Holland with its immaculately manicured landscape closely mirrors the Edward Scissorhand’s universe. Victor spends most of time obsessively making monster movies starring his beloved dog Sparky. In the opening sequence Victor screens his latest masterwork for his parents. Its an hilarious shlock, horror rampage featuring a gigantic pterodactyl with visible strings. In fact its much like the work of the infamous B grade director Ed Wood whom Burton depicted in the 1994 film of the same name. Are you detecting a pattern here?
Tragedy soon strikes when Sparky is hit by a car. Mr and Mrs Frankenstein try to comfort the devastated Victor by telling him that Sparky will “always be in his heart”. This is of little consolation. Victor doesn’t want Sparky in his heart, he wants his dog back by his side. As luck would have it a new science teacher, a Vincent Price look and sound alike named Mr Rzykruski, arrives on the scene the following day. He demonstrates how electric current can re animate the the limbs of a dead frog thus spurring Victor off on a bizarre quest.
In a makeshift laboratory in his attic, Victor harnesses the power of lightening and brings the dog back to life. However he has created a force that cant be contained. The secret soon gets out and creepy, hunch backed classmate Edgar ‘E’ Gore persuades Victor to revive a gold fish. This feat goes “viral” and with a school Science Fair looming a bunch of Victor’s classmates attempt to resurrect their own deceased pets. As we know from countless zombie movies, raising the dead is an undertaking that never ends well. Soon the township of New Holland is engulfed by monster mayhem. Victor and Sparky must contend with a mummified hamster named Colossus, a were rat, a vampire bat/cat hybrid, a group of sea monkeys on steroids and most fearsome of all a giant turtle with a bad attitude named “Shelley”. To amplify their troubles the townsfolk form a torch weilding mob and try to lynch Sparky.
Despite some mildly scary moments the film’s happy ending is both poignant and heart warming. My girls enjoyed the action and I heard them oohing and aaahing through the climatic scenes. I suspect P1 even teared up during the finale. However much of the humor went straight over their heads. I found myself laughing out loud while they simply looked bemused.
Mumabulous Verdict: 8/10
Frankenweenie is an animated movie that is really pitched at adults. While the story line works on its own, its real beauty is in the way that it celebrates the creature features of old. Every aspect of it is a salute to previous classics. I’d recommend it as a fun Halloween outing for tweens and teens. It would even work for a date night.
P1’s Verdict (aged 5)
First it was scary. Then it wasn’t as scary and I liked it.
P2’s Verdict (aged 3)
Mmmm ummmm ummm. Mmmmm ummm ummmm. Popcorn.