Friday, October 5, 2012


The problem with Tim Burton over the past decade or so has been twofold; first, most of his films have been remakes based on someone else’s idea or material. Second, those remakes have been devoid of the heart and soul which made Burton’s earlier works so great; a general lack of coherency and focus on the characters have really been his downfall. With FRANKENWEENIE, which is a remake of his own short-film, Burton remembers to keep his eye on the prize, and in doing so, injects some much needed energy to the long-dead corpse of the classic Tim Burton.
Victor (voiced by Charlie Tahan), is a young scientific genius who makes homemade 8mm movies with the help of his best friend, his dog Sparky. After an unfortunate accident, Sparky goes belly-up, leaving Victor heartbroken. After some inspiration from his science teacher (voiced by Martin Landau), Victor uses science (and lightning) to re-animate the corpse of Sparky, bringing him back to life.

The plot is simple, yet FRANKENWEENIE carries enough heavy-handed adult themes to keep more mature minds entertained and engaged. Ultimately, the film is about a boy and his dog, and despite the many creepy and zany twists-and-turns the film takes, Burton never forgets to keep his two heroes in mind. The film spends a good amount of time building the relationship between Victor and Sparky, which makes Sparky’s departure all the more tragic (and heartbreaking), and his return all the more uplifting. The consequences of Sparky’s resurrection go beyond Victor and his family, and the domino-effect it has on the town eventually brings some real fun.
Outside of a fantastic design and remarkable stop-motion puppetry, FRANKENWEENIE’s story is ultimately supported by the innards of its director. It really does feel like Tim Burton threw up all over the screen, leaving everything he has ever done and seen for us all to see. Most of, if not all of his past works are represented in some clever and subtle references, along with his love for B-movies (cough-edwood-cough), and traditional filmmaking. Along with that, nearly every classic horror/monster film of the past 50 years shows up in one form or another. Everyone from Dracula, Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s Bride, the Invisible Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Mummy, zombies…Even Godzilla and the Gremlins are referenced, making FRANKENWEENIE a perfect little Halloween film.

Thankfully, Burton never lets all the references sideline or take over the film from its characters, and those characters are brilliantly voiced. Charlie Tahan feels perfect for Victor, and the rest of the cast also feels great, but the show is nearly stolen by Martin Landau, who basically does his Bela Lugosi all over again for Burton.
FRANKENWEENIE ultimately proves that there really is nothing wrong with Burton doing a remake, providing that he can keep the film feeling original while never leaving the characters in the dust, and here he knocks both out of the park. This is the Tim Burton we’ve missed, and the one we need. Let’s hope this re-animated character stays.

By the way, the (goddamn) 3D is (goddamn) useless and you should save your (goddamn) money by seeing the (glorious) 2D version.

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