“Frankenweenie” deserves a treat for being Burton’s animated resurrection

 Distinguished director Tim Burton resurrects his career with his latest venture, Frankenweenie.  Inspired by the loss of a childhood pet, Burton returns to his roots and bears his soul with his best animated feature since The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).  Frankenweenie is a retro stop-motion animation presented in black and white.

Frankenweenie’s homage to classic horror, film, and culture starts as soon as the film begins rolling (or as soon as the picture begins projecting, rather).  The Frankenstein family (Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein, Victor, and Sparky) is gathered ’round the television on a sofa watching Victor’s homemade 3-D short.  In this moment the love between Victor and his dog Sparky is clearly established.

As the story progresses, the inevitable occurs, revealing the premise.  Victor, a young and aspiring [student] scientist, conducts an experiment to bring Sparky back to life.  What Victor doesn’t anticipate are the unintended and sometimes monstrous consequences.

John August’s (Big Fish, Titan A.E.) nostalgia-laden script is rich and takes viewers on a journey to the past filled with horror genre archetypes and refernces.  Frankenweenie time-travels to a period when June Cleaver-type mothers made their homes, where fathers sold dreams, and where children’s imaginations ran wild.  In this place, science and math are regarded as pastimes as notable as baseball or as legendary as fearsome creatures of the night like Godzilla.

Burton’s execution is purely magical, with few glitches and his characters live through a talented group of vocalists including Catherine O’Hara (Mrs. Frankenstein, Weird Girl, and Gym Teacher), Martin Short (Mr. Frankenstein, Mr. Burgemeister, and Nassor), Winona Ryder (Elsa Van Helsing), and Charlie Tahan (Victor Frankenstein).  Together, the elements will allow Frankenweenie to endure as a timeless animated classic, that will not only serve as a memoir of Burton’s work, but of a pastime itself that will likely inspire a group of the next generation’s filmmakers with its technique, story, and visuals.

Frankenweenie is rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, and action and runs 87 minutes.

Grade: A-


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