FILM REVIEW: Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie sees director Tim Burton toying with stop animation once again, a medium that perfectly showcases his incredible character designs and quirky animation style. The story is based on a short stop motion animation of the same name Burton produced during his time at Disney back in 1984. Disney just didn’t get it then and Burton was fired shortly afterwards; but Buton’s career has come full circle and now Disney have shocked life back into the story nearly 30 years later.

 The story follows Victor Frankenstein and his best friend the dog Sparky who live in the quaint town of New Holland. After Sparky dies in an accident Victor sets about trying to harness the power of electricity to bring his beloved pet back to life. In terms of plot, sure, there isn’t much else there – but the tale is incredibly enchanting.

However while this film will appease the director’s fans for its familiar eerie style it does feel a little formulaic and like it’s treading familiar ground, so this may not bring in a new legion of Burton groupies.

The animation is beautiful, full of eccentric characters, animals and scenery. As it’s all shot in black and white there’s a distinctly Universal horror film from the ‘40s feel, meaning the result feels like a homage to the films of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff; in fact, the character Nassor is reminiscent of a young Karloff himself.

The film has an impressive voice cast, with Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara portraying various characters, but their stand out work is through of Victor’s Mum and Dad. They both give an emotional and incredible well-balanced portrayal as his understanding and loving parents.

However Martin Landau steals the film with Mr Rzykruski , (or Mr Rice Krispies as the kids call him), as Victor’s teacher who inspires him to use science to bring pet puppy Sparky. Part-Vincent Price and part-Landau himself played with a thick Eastern European accent, he’s yet another character Burton uses to showcase his love for early horror.

The stop motion is incredibly slick, but the characters’ expressions are not as detailed as in ParaNorman, the other stop motion horror film released last month (think zombies instead of Frankenstein); but there’s an array of superbly stylised characters and scary monsters to cater to all ages and tastes.

We don’t want to ruin the film, but keep an eye out for the terrifying Mummy Hamster, who has possibly the best introduction ever seen; seriously, we laughed so hard we cried.

Danny Elfman is back working with Burton again providing the film’s score. His music perfectly complements Burton’s style of animation, keeping the score simplistic and sweet, reflecting the film’s feel and plot perfectly.

Like many other Tim Burton films Frankenweenie has a strong fairytale feel to it and plays heavily on the theme of childlike innocence with a distinct nod to the atmosphere of Edward Scissorhands. However, there are those that call Burton’s films dark; and while yes, they have a gothic sensibility, that label overlooks an often charming and whimsical feel beneath the gothic scenes, which is the more pervading feeling.

This film is captivating and utterly charming. Kids will love the design and quirky storytelling while adults with a love for horror will enjoy catching all the references to Universal and even Hammer Horror films. The 3D doesn’t add anything to the film, but certainly also doesn’t distract from the action taking place on screen, which is, in itself, an achievement we feel.

Overall, we highly recommend this film for its quirkiness, childlike innocence with a heavy dash of horror and can’t wait to scurry off to the cinema to watch it again!

Reporter: Sara Westrop

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  1. Great review, can’t wait to see it!

    • sarawestrop /

      It is such a gorgeous film! You’ll love it 🙂

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