Film Review: Frankenweenie (2012)

Burton’s latest is good, not great, 3.5/5

Todd Miller | Collegio Writer

Monster movies returned last week with the release of “Frankenweenie,” an animated remake of an older Tim Burton movie by the same name.
The non-animated version was released in 1984, but Disney felt the movie was too scary for children and it was aired only in the UK. After Burton’s other successful films, however, Disney finally released “Frankenweenie” on home video in 1994. Burton gets further retribution in this new animated release, which he also directed. The 2012 “Frankenweenie” is also a feature-length movie, unlike the 30-minute original.
Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) is a young, shy boy who is attached to his dog, Sparky. Victor is crushed when Sparky is accidentally run over. While still in mourning, Victor receives a science lesson about using electricity to excite the muscles of dead creatures. Inspired, Victor begins his science experiment and manages to bring Sparky back to life. Now that he has his undead dog, Victor must try to keep Sparky and his experiment a secret.

Victor Frankenstien and Sparky in Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie" (2012, Disney).

Victor Frankenstien and Sparky in Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie” (2012, Disney).

The writing and characters in “Frankenweenie” are rather charming. The movie is a clear homage to “Frankenstein,” if not old monster movies in general, so the plot certainly isn’t exciting or new (with the exception of the monster being a dog.) But it’s cute; it doesn’t try overly hard and makes for some nice entertainment.
Keeping with the monster movie theme, “Frankenweenie” is entirely in black and white. In the same vein as “Young Frankenstein,” I think this adds to the film’s atmosphere and shows how hard the animators had to work.
Similar to Burton’s previous works, like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Corpse Bride,” “Frankenweenie” is entirely stop-animated. However, I think the quality isn’t as good as his other works. At times, the animations of some of the puppets felt stilted or sloppy. And I could see blemishes in the puppets’ faces. Many of the character designs seemed overly cartoonish, crossing from parody into poor. Overall, it was disappointing to see these flaws after the high-quality animation found in “Corpse Bride,” which was released seven years ago.
“Frankenweenie” is available in 3D, but it does not rely on it, something I appreciated. Graphically, the movie could be enjoyed in 2D or 3D equally.
The movie also takes a little time to get going. It takes a big chunk of the movie’s runtime to even get to the main point: the undead dog. The movie’s climactic scenes are worth the wait, but they are wrapped up so quickly that I hardly got to enjoy them. The final quarter of the movie moved far too quickly compared to the rest of the film, leaving the whole thing lacking. I was somewhat bored with the movie before its climax.
Take that with a grain of salt, though. “Frankenweenie” isn’t a bad watch, and you could certainly do worse. It’s entertaining, but it simply doesn’t have much substance, especially for older audiences. In fact, it might be worth waiting to see “Frankenweenie” when you can rent it, rather than spend the money going to the theater.

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