The latest outing from Tim ‘king-of-the-goths’ Burton, Frankenweenie is a remake of his 1984 live-action short that he developed while working as an animator for Disney. The film he made was apparently far too dark to market to children and he was fired for wasting company resources. Now, Disney are crawling back to the legendary auteur. After proving that his own creepy style is one of the most bankable behind-camera efforts in Hollywood, the traditional Disney castle opening even gets a moody black-and-white makeover.
The film itself is everything you would expect from Burton. Well, a younger Burton anyway. Frankenweenie marks a rise back to form after the awkward Dark Shadows and miscalculated Alice in Wonderland. Perhaps it is the return to stop-motion animation that has brought to life everything that makes Burton such a wonderful filmmaker. His doodles and designs are brought to life on page and this story goes even deeper than his previous animation Corpse Bride (which was entertaining but still lacking… something).
Perhaps it was because the film is based on an older script, before he decided he could throw Johnny Depp and his long-term beau Helena Bonham-Carter, that it smacks of such heart.
Frankenweenie is a simple tale of a slightly awkward kid that has to deal with his best friend, Sparky, being hit by a car and killed during a baseball game. Tragic stuff. Luckily, Vincent (our lanky protagonist) is learning about electricity’s effect on the body during science and decides to bring his dog back from the dead.
The film unfolds as you’d most likely expect it to, and at times it can feel even a touch too dark for youngsters to go and see, but it seems like Burton isn’t trying to make a kids film – just a personal and brilliant film with strong emotions at its core.
He succeeds. Not only do we get a touching story of boy and dog, but we are also treated to a love-note to old school horror flicks. Thos unacquainted with the genre might miss a few, but overall if you’ve ever heard of Hammer Horror, you’ll find a few wonderful little nods to the old classics that inspired Burton himself.
Frankenweenie features fantastic humour as well, keeping you entertained even as things take a turn for the worse. We’ve departed from a single solitary oddball in a dream-like suburbia (a la Edward Scissorhands) and instead we get a whole host of strange and downright weird children. In fact, Vincent seems the most normal out of all of them.
Animation is definitely where Burton belongs. Bringing his art truly to life and creating beautifully haunting set pieces and distinctive characters seems to be easiest when they are hand-crafted rather than CGI and the 3D isn’t overdone but effective.
I’d recommend this flick to pretty much anyone. It’s entertaining enough that no one will feel that their time is wasted. Burton fans will love it for the traditional feel of old-school Burton films, like The Nightmare Before Christmas, and horror lovers will get a kick out of a Christopher Lee cameo and the other horror winks. Even if you’ve never been into horror or Burton, you’ll still find a touching and funny film for any age.