Director: Tim Burton
Writer: John August
Based on: the short film Frankenweenie (which you can watch here and which stars the kid from The Neverending Story)
Cast: Charlie Tahan, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder
Victor (Charlie Tahan) loves science, making movies and his dog Sparky, but he isn’t really popular. He doesn’t care that much about that, though. His world is shattered when Sparky gets hit by a car. Inspired by his new science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau), Victor tries to bring Sparky back to life – with science – and actually succeeds. But that is actually only the start of a whole new set of problems.
Frankenweenie really does have its moments, but I also have a couple of issues with it. On the whole, it doesn’t rise much above meh.
Where the movie is definitely strongest is in showing the relationship between Vincent and Sparky. It rings absolutely true and when Vincent is heartbroken over Sparky’s death, your heart breaks right along with him. It was beautifully done.
I also really loved Mr. Rzykruski. When a parents’ meeting is called to discuss his methods, his defense is definitely one of the highlights of the film. It starts with, “Ladies and Gentlemen. I see what the problem here is. It’s that you’re all ignorant.” and just gets better from there.
But I had issues with the film, too. Victor’s experiment gets repeated a couple of times and every time the result is different. Mr. Rzykruski explains this to him, saying that he went with different feelings into the experiment and that the attitudes we bring to science influence its outcome. And while I appreciate the lesson about the subjectivity of science (which is quite enormous), in this case it came across more as magic than anything else.
And there was Victor’s classmate Toshiaki. Yay, you’d think. Racial diversity, you’d think. But why this kid from the suburbs like any other kid had to speak with a heavy Japanese accent, nobody really knows.
Plus, they introduced the characters of Elsa van Helsing and her dog, seemingly purely so that both Victor and Sparky could have a damsel to rescue. The movie could have done without that.
The visuals were pretty nice, though. I was not a huge fan of the character designs, but the rest was really nice – and really close to the original film a lot of times. Plus, they built in a whole lot of references to old horror movies and some nice jokes (the one I probably liked best was the turtle called Shelley).
But altogether the movie just ran long and fell flat. Especially the monster sequence felt tacked on (and I’m not saying this because it wasn’t in the original). Maybe Burton should have just left it at the short movie.
Summarising: Okay, but not more.