After the death of his dog Sparky, an inventive young boy named Victor Frankenstein is inspired by his science teacher to bring him back to life with the power of electricity. His experiment is a success, but Sparky’s presence is unsettling the quiet life of New Holland’s suburbs and opens a can of worms in a competition amongst Victor’s classmates. Frankenweenie was originally a live-action short Burton made in 1984. I was excited to hear that he was in-charge of a stop-motion remake, though nervous about exactly how he was going to flesh it out and what Disney was going to do once they got their mitts on the production. As a result, well, sorry folks but there are going to be some spoilers.
I loved how this movie referenced classic horror films – sure the references weren’t at all subtle but I just love how they were engrained into this weird little world Burton created. For instance, that scene where the parents are watching Christopher Lee’s Dracula in their quiet little suburban home, that moment feels like pure nostalgia to me – I can’t really explain it. And of course the animation looks fantastic and everything – on the surface this film is just pure fun and plain adorable.
Here comes the big fat however: I really just wish that they didn’t go with every convention for these types of weird kid movies. Only this time all the kids were weird in their own ways, so I guess that leaves a little food for thought. Regardless, we still get all the stuff about embracing differences and listening to our children and blah blah blah. At first I thought ParaNorman topped this idea off for good, but when Mr. Frankenstein (long time no see, Martin Short) just says, “Sometimes adults don’t know what they’re talking about,” I think that just totally hit the nail on the head. I mean I appreciate these messages, but they just get so draining after awhile.
I also still have mixed feelings about the character of Toshiaki – the character’s a complete stereotype but also voiced by a Japanese person, and I guess he was never made fun of other than his really thick accent. At the same time he was also villainous and provided the Godzilla element. I’m not sure if this is referential humor or kind of insensitive. It’s not like this would be the first time Disney’s done something like this.
On the other hand, I thought it was interesting how this film handled the explanation for the other kids’ experiments. By focusing on the intent of the creation as opposed to the logic behind the results is something really refreshing. After all, if something isn’t done with noble intent the results are well, monstrous. There really was no sense to the happenings with the lightning, but I think that relates back to the sort of mysticism of this movie’s universe. There’s a thunderstorm every night and there’s no explanation why. Was it the miners or the graveyard? We’ll just never know.
Frankenweenie is pure Burton fun just in time for Halloween. It may lack depth but it still carries a genuine warmth, which is greatly appreciated.
Final Grade: A-