FRANKENWEENIE – Fantastic Fest Review
What was your relationship to monsters as a child? Were they the boogeymen under your bed, or were they the things of wonder that fueled your imagination? My experience growing up follows the latter, filling my young mind with freakish fascinations. Clearly, the same goes for Tim Burton, who has taken his popular 1984 short film of the same name and expanded it into his newest feature film. FRANKENWEENIE (2012) is still a stop-motion animated film, in 3D this go ’round, adding even more of Burton’s uniquely dark charm to the semi-autobiographical story of a strange loner of a boy and his undead pooch.
FRANKENWEENIE is shot in glorious black and white, capturing the moody universe of Burton’s imagination. Much like the original short, the story begins by painting a picture of young Victor’s daily life, his time at school, his personality. Victor, voiced by Charlie Tahan (CHARLIE ST. CLOUD), is an intelligent loner with a knack for science. His best, and only friend, is his dog Sparky. Mr. Rzykruski, voiced by Martin Landau (ED WOOD), is the new science teacher whom has the town of New Holland’s parents and Mayor up in arms, proves to be a major influence on young Victor.
Victor’s father encourages him to get outside and try sports, but in doing so results in a tragedy that will forever change Victor’s life. Poor little Sparky meets his unexpected demise, but after Mr. Rzykruski demonstrates an experiment with electricity, Victor’s focus immediately becomes applying this new knowledge to bringing his beloved Sparky back from the dead. His success sparks a chain of events amidst his schoolmates and neighbors that slowly spirals out of control and provides a hilariously enjoyable, nostalgic adventure through multiple eras of monster movies classics.
As always, the animation in Burton’s film is awe-inspiring. The pace of FRANKENWEENIE is charged with energy and kept my eyes fixed on the action and the antics of the loyal Sparky. Combined with Danny Elfman‘s quirky trademark style of composing, the film resembles a fun house amusement ride of Gothic proportions. Seeing Burton’s creativity and love of monster films take shape in this film is a real gem. Inspirations varies widely, but I can say that it spans from the gargantuan in 1954 to the reptilian mischief of 1984, and beyond.
FRANKENWEENIE comes full circle in a fairly conventional fashion, lacking any significantly jaw-dropping moments, but the film as a whole is a marvelous experience for fans of the horror genre of all ages. Backed by Disney, Burton provides another film to the pool of monster films suitable as introductory fare to the youngest of blossoming fans. While the story is obviously most connected to that of FRANKENSTEIN, and Mr. Rzykruski is clearly inspired by Vincent Price, be prepared to pick out all the other winks and nods to genre classics.
In addition to Landau, FRANKENWEENIE also features Burton regulars Wynona Ryder as the voice of Elsa van Helsing, and Catherine O’Hara voicing Victor’s mother as well as two other characters. Having failed to keep Sparky’s return a secret, Victor must overcome the Mayor’s hatred for his dog and the bigger danger of classmate Edgar E. Gor’s irresponsibly fiendish plot to win the science fair by employing Victor’s experiment for selfish purposes. In the process, Victor learns a valuable lesson.
FRANKENWEENIE is being presented in IMAX 3D — as well as in 2D — but the 3D provides an added dimension to the film that is welcome, blending in rather than popping out as merely a gimmick. The short running time of 87 minutes also lends itself well to younger viewers.
FRANKENWEENIE opens nationwide on Friday, October 5th, 2012.