Frankenweenie review by Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
As a fan of Tim Burton’s earlier work, Nightmare before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice I’ve been distinctly disappointed by the more Hollywood-ized fare he has released of late. His screen adaptation of Sweeny Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street was dull and uninspired, whilst he Nightmare-esque animation Corpse Bride was a waste of seventy minutes.
Frankenweenie however is definitely a return to form for Burton; based on his 1984 short the film follows young Victor who, after the sudden and accidental death of his much beloved dog, Sparky, utilizes his science know-how to resurrect the family pet.
Jam-packed with film references the movie manages to regain the dark but decidedly different tone of his earlier films; where Alice in Wonderland was goth for the masses Frankenweenie is tragic but loveable – it’s unusual narrative both sweet and dark, precisely how I imagine Burton himself sees all aspects of life. Visually the film is a lovely homage to horror movies of the 1930’s and Sci-Fi’s 50’s; black and white images of black rimmed eyes wide with awe fill the runtime, bringing the beautifully animated characters to life. Whilst the voice talents of Winona Ryder (Elsa Van Helsing), Catherine O’Hara (Mrs. Frankenstein) and Charlie Tahan (Victor Frankenstein) compliment their on screen counterparts beautifully; and a special mention must go to Martin Landau for his Bella Lugosi inspired Mr. Ryzkruski, Victor’s science teacher, whose Eastern European tones inspire Victor to use his chemistry knowledge to resurrect the adorable Sparky.
What’s always been really fun about Burton movies is his ability to tell often well known stories but giving them a new lease (or in this case “leash”) of life; Sleepy Hollow brought the Colonial story of the headless horseman to our screens whilst the aforementioned Scissorhands is another take on the Frankenstein story and his more recent work such as Charlie and Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland brought famous classic children’s novels to life. This has always been part of Burton’s charm, though some have argued that his reliance on already established material in recent years (Alice, Charlie, the remake of Planet of the Apes and the film adaptation of Dark Shadows) suggests that the writer/director is running out of ideas. For those who have felt disheartened by Burton for the last ten years Frankenweenie is a fun and tentative step back to his glory days; one only hopes that his choice to resurrect his own short isn’t a further sign that his creativity is drying up.