Wednesday 17 October 2012

Frankenweenie Review

Tim Burton once worked for Disney and made a short stop motion film called Frankenweenie in 1984 where a young boy, Victor brings his beloved dog Sparky back to life. The off beat horror homage became Burton's calling card with so many of the black and white stripes and alternative hero that is fundamental to the auteur. Burton comes back full black and white swirling circle to make the feature length stop motion Frankenweenie with Disney. 

Fleshing out the original short with Victor's family, friends and of course Sparky, Burton once again creates a beautiful black and white homage to B-Movie horror classics and Frankenweenie works as both a purely entertaining family friendly film and sophisticated film history lesson particularly of 1930s horror film imagery and Gothic literature.

Burton's Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) is an introverted loner who spends his free time outside of school making monster and horror films that star his friendly, enthusiastic dog Sparky. It is important to note that John Augusts' screenplay based on Burton's character, does not make Victor lonely. Instead Victor is just very preoccupied with his own interests. His parents voiced by Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short worry about his social skills but the intelligent Victor is a happily self contained character. Victor's class mates are a cacophony of horror and Gothic characters including Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Edgar 'E' Gore (Atticus Shaffer), Bob (Robert Capron) with the iconic Boris Karloff Frankenstein's Monster haircut from The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) by James Whale. 

Japanese monster films have their place in Victor's world and there is what might be suggested as being a nod to the 1967 Bond classic You Only Live Twice in terms of classmates and cats with villainous streaks. The uniformity of suburban life is also included with the inhabitants of the film's town, New Holland being filled with Gothic elements living behind picket fences. Who would seem like Victor's potential love element Elsa Van Helsing (Winona Ryder) is the one wearing the black and white stripes and the off beat girl-next-store. Elsa's poddle dog is Sparky's main love interest and it is their dog tentative romance that sets up one of the best iconic comedy moments of the film. Burton favourites Martin Landau as Science teacher Mr. Rzykruski; Christopher Lee plus  a score by Danny Elfman are classic Burton film making elements though minus the usually present Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter.

In short, Frankenweenie contains so many of the enjoyable and entertaining aspects of Tim Burton's body of work. All of the characters are memorable and there is a real emotional beating heart to this film in regards to cinema itself and how science is a positive force once it is conducted with love and integrity. The stop motion animation is flawless and captivating to behold along with the smoothness of black and white cinematography. Frankenweenie is clearly in favour of dogs in the dogs vs cats debate and as we all know, Dogs Rule.

Rating 5 Stars.

Frankenweenie is out on general release in the UK today.

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