Frankenweenie is definitely not aimed at wee ones
Directed by Tim Burton. Featuring the voices of Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, and Martin Landau. Rated G.
The fact that the boy hero of this beautifully animated item is named Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) should be a tip-off that Tim Burton is nodding in the direction of classic Universal Pictures horror flicks—despite the fact that the recent ParaNorman is of that studio’s pedigree and the black-and-white Frankenweenie isn’t.
In fact, all the other middle-school students in suburban New Holland seem to resemble ghouls from Hollywood history. (That hunchback who bugs Victor for help with his science project lisps like Peter Lorre.) But it’s not all mummies, werewolves, and bats in New Holland. There’s also a Japanese exchange student with a pet reptile, so guess where that’s going. And Victor’s sensitive neighbour, black-haired Elsa Van Helsing, recalls Winona Ryder’s characters in Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice. Wait: that is Winona Ryder.
The screenplay, by Burton veteran John August, expands on the director’s 1984 live-action short of the same name, and the story is largely an excuse to trot out themes dear to folks who grew up in the ’50s and ’60s. But how many kids are going to know what it means when that poodle’s black hair gets an Elsa Lanchester streak up the side?
The film is definitely not aimed at wee ones, what with the lad’s beloved dog, Sparky, bumped off early and then revived, with spare parts. Victor himself remains rather unformed, but there is terrific voice work from Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara, who play his parents as well as several much odder citizens. And there is a show-stopping turn from Martin Landau as a heavily accented science teacher who can’t grasp why the locals are frightened when he simply wants to “get at the children’s brains”.
It may not be fully fleshed, but Frankenweenie is better, or at least more disciplined, than any of Burton’s live-action movies of the past decade. And Danny Elfman’s quirky score is to die for.
Watch the trailer for Frankenweenie.