Friday, October 5, 2012

Movie Review: Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie (2012)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Martin Short, Catherine O'Hara, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau and Charlie Tahan

I reviewed this film for Next Projection.

Tim Burton's latest animated oddity heralds a return to form for the director. Although he distracted himself with big-budget remakes over the years -- many of which failed to resonate with viewers -- Frankenweenie is a welcome return to the Burton of old.

Expanding on a concept conceived back in 1984, Frankenweenie has gone from a 30-minute project to a feature-length film lensed in glorious black and white -- an homage to the horror influences of his childhood.

Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) is devastated when his beloved dog, Sparky, is killed in a tragic road accident. However, when a grieving Victor learns about the effects of electricity while in his science class he concocts a plan to bring his dog back to life. But, in order to avoid detection, he must outsmart his parents (Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short), science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau) and his nosy classmates. Although Victor's experiment initially proves to be a success, he is ultimately forced to confront the consequences of his actions when other people get their hands on the science behind bringing the dead back to life.
Influenced by the aesthetics and techniques used in the German Expressionist films that were prevalent in the 1920s, Frankenweenie also contains a memorable cast of eccentric outsiders -- all familiar features in Burton's oeuvre.

The craftsmanship is a wonder to behold. Frankenweenie is arguably Burton's most visually stunning work in years. Making the bold decision to release a family feature in black and white, the characters and their little town of New Holland are so vivid they appear to pop off the screen. To understand the painstaking process involved in creating a stop-motion feature, is to realize that Frankenweenie is a genuine labour of love for its director.

While the plot fondly borrows from films and literature of the past, it's the characters that keeps the action moving forward. The premise may not be original but the memorable cast of characters is all Burton's own creation. His signature long-legged, saucer-eyed characters tend to resemble grotesque marionettes but their personalities carry a lot of heart.

Despite all the impressively eerie visuals and classic film references, Frankenweenie is ultimately just a touching story about a young boy and his dog; the rare family feature that will appeal to both children and adults alike.

Burton's affection for his now-28-year-old story is undeniable as Frankenweenie proves to be the director's most successful outing in years.


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