movie film review | chris tookey


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  Frankenweenie Review
Tookey's Rating
8 /10
Average Rating
6.96 /10
Charlie Tahan, Martin Landau , Martin Short
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Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: John August

Released: 2012
Origin: US
Colour: BW
Length: 87

Frankenweenie is a return to form for Tim Burton and his most entertaining venture yet into stop-motion animation.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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It shares a similar visual style to The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride, but contains better jokes and a more winning storyline. It also makes effectively cheesy use of 3D.

In a way, itís a classic boy-and-his-dog story, except that in this case the dog is dead. Sparky, a bouncy bull terrier, follows a ball into traffic one day and meets an untimely demise.

Sparkyís boy owner, Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) is inspired by a new science teacher (splendidly voiced by Martin Landau) who shows how electricity can galvanise dead frogs, Victor decides he literally wonít sleeping dogs lie. After a spot of impromptu grave-robbing, he rigs up a science laboratory to harness the lightning storms that affect the area and resuscitates the animal.

Anyone who remembers what the zombie pets were like in Stephen Kingís Pet Sematery may fear the worst, but in Tim Burtonís universe an undead pet can be just as faithful as a live one - even if he does have bolts through his neck.

Victorís first problem is to stop the undead Sparky from scaring Victorís conventional parents (Catherine OíHara and Martin Short) into an early grave. Bigger snags develop when Victorís schoolfriends and enemies hear of what heís been up to and try to use the same methods on other dead animals, with hilarious if scary consequences including mutated batcats and a gigantic tortoise with a bad attitude.

Victorís only ally, apart from Sparky, is the girl next door, Elsa van Helsing (Winona Ryder), downtrodden niece of the town mayor (Martin Short again) who doesnít approve of any animals straying on to his patch, especially not dead ones.

The main message of the movie is the reverse of most Frankenstein movies; it says that scientific experiments are an antidote to ignorance and prejudice. It also makes a point similar to the one in ParaNorman earlier this year, that itís okay to be different, and almost certainly a good sign if others think youíre a freak.

Frankenweenie is a big-budget 3D remake of a short film Burton made in 1984, which is easily viewable on the internet. Both movies are affectionate parodies of the 1931 novel Frankenstein and the films inspired by it. The new one is the version worth seeing.

Itís not exactly breaking new ground for a Tim Burton movie. His most memorable portrait of an outsider battling small-minded intolerance remains Edward Scissorhands. Ed Wood is his most brilliant celebration of creativity, even incompetent creativity. And if you want a straightforward movie for children, youíre probably better off watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

But Frankenweenie is a far more successful venture into Gothic comedy than Burtonís last film Dark Shadows, and welcome proof that this most visionary of directors has not mislaid his talent. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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