tue 25/06/2024

Frankenweenie | reviews, news & interviews



Tim Burton meets Mary Shelley in the form of a (re)animated suburban pooch

'Frankenweenie': about a boy's fiendish dedication to bringing his pet back dead and alive

Who knew that Tim Burton remaking himself would, in effect, bring him back to creative life? Of three highly anticipated horror-based "family films" released this Halloween season, Burton’s Frankenweenie would seem like the rank outsider. A stop-motion animated feature about a boy who loves his dead dog isn’t the kind of thing you’d take little Emma to see. It isn’t the kind of film to discuss at the family dinner table. Nor should you.

This is not a film for small children or those of a nervy disposition. It is, however, a high-quality labour of love for anyone who just adores the modern notion of gothic. Current and ex-goths, come on down.

A "reimagining" of Burton’s live-action 30-minute short of 1984, Frankenweenie is a creepy little film that will capture your heart as it creeps up your spine. Not only is the stop-motion animation utterly compelling (and the 3D is good), the vocal performances are vividly charming. Actors love to work with Burton and here, where it counts the most, he taps into a vast talent pool for just the right players: Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) lives with his parents (Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara). He attends a science class taught by hardcore scientist Mr Rzykruski (Martin Landau, or Martin Landau cum Vincent Price). A science competition pits the gentle, heartbroken Victor against his disturbing classmates, thus beginning the whole "reanimation" scheme that ultimately leads to more than the desired results.

Screenwriter John August (Dark Shadows) acquits himself well with a story that follows its own dark logic. Notably, Burton favourites Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are missing, so don’t stick around to read the credits just in case they've done a cameo. One surprise in the voice cast is Winona Ryder, who, along with Catherine O’Hara, is reunited with Burton after their work together on Beetlejuice.

The quiet confidence of Frankenweenie will win over Burton-haters and super-charge his fans. Like The Artist's Uggie (only dead-ish) the fact that Victor's little dog Sparky is a lovable little, er, soul perfectly explains the boy's fiendish dedication to bringing his pet back dead and alive. As a lithe homage to all things Frankenstein, it is rich in visual jokes and sparkles with lesser noticed nerdy detail. For example, Sparky’s lady-dog friend has a pooch hairdo similar to that of Elsa Lanchester in Bride of Frankenstein. That’s no accident. That’s Burton asking us if we remember how truly cool old horror was. We can only nod and say, “Yes. More please.”

Thanks to the gothic glory of Frankenweenie, that talk of remaking Beetlejuice seems like a completely great idea. Tim Burton is back. Or perhaps you could say it like Boris Karloff: "The mahster is bahck."

Follow Karen Krizanovich on Twitter

As a lithe homage to all things Frankenstein, it is rich in visual jokes and sparkles with nerdy detail


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters