This cheerful and seriously beautiful looking update of Shelly’s Frankenstein is a feature length remake of Tim Burton’s very own short film of the same name. The first Frankenweenie, made 28 years before his newest release, was rejected by Disney for scaring the children which were it’s intended target audience and, ultimately was responsible for getting Burton was fired from Disney for wasting their money. Of course The Prince of Darkness is now slightly more bankable and the very same company have released Burton’s best film since Sleepy Hollow.
We are in New Holland again and young Victor (Charlie Tahan) is inspired by his Vincent Price faced science teacher Mr Rzykruski (Martin Landau) to attempt to bring back to life his recently deceased besty, his dog, Sparky. But when the brilliantly named Edgar ‘E’ Gore (Atticus Shaffer) finds out that Victor has electrifyingly succeeded, the young scamp starts a chain reaction of imagination and jealousy in the children of the school to attempt the same.
The characters of Burton’s film are unmistakably him. Pale, dark haired outsiders intent on finding something magical and otherworldly in calm drab suburbia. Though it’s never really explained full when Frankenweenie is set, the whole picture is faithful to the director’s own 1950’s illusory obsessions. Nods to Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee, to Godzilla and various modern pop culture references pepper the film nicely, adding a little extra kick to fans of Burton and for our new culture of adults who can still remember being kids watching and enjoying children’s films, often more than the children themselves.
It’s beautifully constructed too, both in design and story. Sparky’s resurrection is wonderfully realised and each ghoulish character’s face bubbles with a unique personality which most animated films often lose in by sticking to one much too singular style. The monochrome is luminous and nostalgic (though being a child of the 80’s I’m still not entirely sure what I’m nostalgic for) evoking The Twilight Zone, Hammer and many of it’s creator’s other consistant obsessions.
A good move from Burton and a sweet and highly entertaining film after a handful of 3D blockbusting clunkers that tried too hard and failed to rekindle the wondrous feeling of his early work. It is strange though that he had to go 28 years back in time to find his dark mojo again. Though there is nothing new here for fans of the short film, kids and adults alike should enjoy Frankenweenie as much as they can as it may be a while before Burton concocts a live action film with his style stamped as proudly and loudly on it as this has.
neil @ projectorreview.tumblr.com/