The films of Tim Burton have a distinct feel and texture. They they are dark and absurd and, for the most part, unique in Hollywood.
“Frankenweenie” is almost instantly recognizable as a Burton film — even without Johnny Depp — and would fit perfectly in a triple feature with previous stop-motion animated films “Corpse Bride” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Being quintessentially Burton-ish, however, doesn’t make a film perfect. “Frankenweenie” is creepy, strange and worth seeing, but not without flaws.
A remake of Burton’s own 1984 live-action short of the same name, “Frankenweenie” is about a lonely but bright young boy named Victor Frankenstein.
Victor’s only true friend is his loyal dog, Sparky, who stars in the home movies that he makes in the family’s dark attic.
When Sparky is killed in a tragic accident, Victor is inconsolable, until a lecture on electricity sets off a light bulb in his head. He whips up a contraption, adds some lightning and voila — Sparky lives.
He’s got bolts in his neck, ugly stitches and parts that tend to fall off, but essentially Sparky is back in all his glory.
Other kids, though, find out what Victor’s “science project” is and, well, lots of people have dead pets ...
Charlie Tahan provides the voice of Victor, while Winona Ryder is his sympathetic goth neighbor, Elsa. Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short both give voice to several characters, including Victor’s parents.
The standout in the vocal cast is Martin Landau, as a strange science teacher with an unpronounceable name who inspires Victor and bears a striking resemblance to Vincent Price.
The film serves an an homage to old monster movies, with numerous references that will go far over the heads of young children. It’s suitably creepy, though not too macabre or terrifying for most of the younger crowd.
The movie is the first one to be filmed in both black and white and the new 3-D technology. Burton is going for a classic feel and is being true to the black-and-white origins of the first film, but in this case, the melding of modern 3-D with old-time lack of color is oddly off putting.
“Frankenweenie” could have been better, but it’s still a good option for families during the Halloween season.
Rental Recommendation: “The Mist,” a slick adaptation of a Stephen King novella, has plenty of scares and is actually even more effective in the black-and-white version available on DVD. Grade: B+
Email Steve Ouellette: firstname.lastname@example.org
Starring: Charlie Tahan, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder
Rated: PG (for thematic elements, scary images and action)
Running time: 87 minutes