I will be one hundred percent honest, I am not a big Tim Burton fan. I do not mean this in a particularly negative way, it is just that his form of artistry does not always grab me in the way it does others, and that isn’t a bad thing. Despite this, his films and in particular his stop motion animations are so incredible that from a technical standpoint, it is hard to hold a candle to his skill.
Frankenweenie is no different. While the animated winner Brave from this year wasn’t necessarily better in story and execution (big ambitions that fell short of expectations), Frankenweenie has a little of the bizarre we expect from Burton and a good amount of emotional connection that works well to keep audiences watching.
The film is a black and white story of Victor Frankenstien (voiced by Charlie Tahan), a genius kid who has a knack for science and a best friend who just happens to be his dog Sparky. His science infatuation is stoked by new teacher Mr. Rsykruski (Martin Landau) and bemusedly endured by his parents. All of his classmates are classic Burton odd balls with funny shaped heads, spooky accents, and fortune telling cats. They are all gearing up for the science fair, which has sparked an odd amount of competitiveness in the class, and everyone is looking to Victor for inspiration.
While Mrs. Frankenstien is all for Victor’s classic weirdness, the Mr. insists he takes up a sport. Unfortunately, at his first baseball game, tragedy strikes and good old Sparky gets hit by a car.
Cue the classic Frankenstien reanimation sequence in which Victor patches his dog back together and brings him back to life by utilizing a lightning storm. While the new and improved Sparky needs a recharge now and then, and perhaps a new patch or stitch here and there, he is back to normal and all pet adoring audiences can relate to wanting their pet back again.
The science fair and competitive classmates make the story take a turn for the worse. Will Victor be able to save the day and convince the town that Sparky should stay?
Let me tell you, I have lost some precious pets in my day and I cried right along with Victor when he lost dear Sparky. However, when Sparky comes back with a sewn on head and his tail goes flying if wagged too vigorously, I was properly grossed out and very appreciative of the black and white versus color imaging. The story was cute, the characters were quirky, and there was an emotional connection to the relationship between Victor and Sparky, but other than that I felt like Frankenweenie was a distinctly kids movie. Pixar often maneuvers their stories to be equally appreciated by both kids and adults alike, but this nomination was a little too childlike for my taste. Despite that, there is some morbid, racist, and fecal humor that might amuse some people.
While it certainly wasn’t the worst movie I have seen this year, it will never make my top 10. If you want to appreciate Burton’s exquisite art in the form of stop motion animation, then you will certainly appreciate aspects of this film. The lead characters were strong and their story lines were decent. It was the side plots I was more let down by, and the quirky classmates that had me scratching my head. I have no idea how Victor did not have any friends in such a town of odd balls.