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Movie Review: Frankenweenie

October 5, 2012

Frankenweenie – A Walt Disney Pictures’ Release

http://disney.com/frankenweenie/

Release Date: October 5th, 2012

Rated PG for frightening scenes

Running time: 87 minutes

Tim Burton (dir.)

John August (screenplay)

Tim Burton (story)

Leonard Ripps (story)

Based on the 1984 short film directed by Tim Burton

Danny Elfman (music)

Charlie Tahan as Victor Frankenstien (voice)

Catherine O’Hara as Mrs. Frankenstien/Weird Girl/Gym Teacher (voice)

Martin Short as Mr. Frankenstein/Mr. Burgemeister/Nassor (voice)

Martin Landau as Mr. Rzykruski (voice)

Winona Ryder as Elsa Van Helsing (voice)

Atticus Shaffer as Edgar ‘E’ Gore (voice)

Robert Capron as Bob (voice)

James Hiroyuki Liao as Toshiaki (voice)

Christopher Lee as Movie Dracula (voice)

Tom Kenny as New Holland Townsfolk (voice)

©Walt Disney Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) and his beloved dog Sparky in Frankenweenie.

Check out all of our photos from The Art of Frankenweenie exhibit at Fan Expo, right here.

Our reviews below:

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Frankenweenie Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

Tim Burton returns to the world of stop motion animation with Frankenweenie, a darkly beautiful film that stands proudly alongside his own equally excellent Corpse Bride from 2005, delivering plenty of stunning visuals to go along with the heartfelt story.

Victor Frankenstein (voice of Charlie Tahan) is a budding filmmaker who spends his time making home movies with his adorable dog Sparky.  But then his beloved pet is hit by a car and Victor is devastated by the loss of his best friend, so he digs up the body in the middle of the night to bring the dog back to life during a lightening storm.  He tries to keep the reanimation a secret, but some of the other students in the mysterious Mr. Ryzkruski’s (Martin Landau) science class inevitably find out, including the aptly named Edgar E. Gore (Atticus Shaffer) and girl next door Elsa Van Helsing (Winona Ryder), and more experiments are unleashed.

Right from the opening scene when Victor shows his parents (Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short) his latest home movie on a classic reel to reel projector, Frankenweenie is a movie that is in love with the world of filmmaking.  Fans of classic horror movies will have a great time finding all of the visual and verbal references that are on display throughout and even popcorn helps to save the day during an awesomely gross scene near the end.  Furthermore, Frankenweenie has been expanded from the 1984 short of the same name that helped launch Tim Burton’s career, making this one of the director’s most personal films to date.

The black and white stop motion animation is just stunning, with the highly stylized look of the characters matching the offbeat heart of the story.  Everything about the film has been brought to life in such a seamlessly real way, that even during the totally twisted last act, we often forget that the movie is actually animated.  There are several beautifully done wordless sequences that are just driven by Danny Elfman’s wonderful music and allow us to explore the striking visuals of the film, with the camera taking us through the striking sets.

From the opening scene right through to Karen O.’s wonderful song “Strange Love” over the end credits, Frankenweenie is a darkly beautiful film that deserves more than one viewing.  With stunning black and white stop motion, memorable characters and a heartfelt story that plays as an homage to filmmaking, Frankenweenie is classic Tim Burton.

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Frankenweenie Review by Erin V.  

**** (out of 4)

Based on Tim Burton’s own short film from 1984, Frankenweenie tells the story of a boy and his dog – with a twist.  When Victor’s (Charlie Tahan) beloved Sparky dies in a tragic accident, he uses his love of science to bring his dog back to life using lightning to charge two bolts he attaches to his dog’s neck.  When this surprisingly works Victor realizes that he must keep what he has managed to do a secret, but the other kids in the neighbourhood soon find out the truth.  Believing Victor just wants to win the science fair with this ‘experiment,’ they try to figure out how to do better – but there is one variable from Victor’s plans to theirs.  He brought Sparky back out of love – what will happen when the power he has discovered is used for gain instead?

Frankenweenie is a wonderful homage to monster movies and movies in general.  The character of Victor is a quiet kid who makes his own (mostly stop-motion) films in his attic before using the same location to bring Sparky back.  The rest of the school kids are all classic Tim Burton characters with each one stranger than the last.  The visuals in the film are all really interesting keeping with the unique style of Burton’s previous animated films, and the stop-motion animation itself is absolutely stunning.  I was lucky enough to get to see some of the actual sets and models in Toronto at Fan Expo earlier this year, and the amount of detail is amazing.  The animation is fluid and to think that everything is created by hand and moved bit by bit to create 30 frames per second is something to be respected for sure.

The film is expectantly dark, but most kids 8+ looking for a Halloween-ish movie will enjoy the film – it is also in black and white which is really cool.  For the rest of us as well, this is a really well made film with a great script and voice acting, that delivers on many different levels.  The score by Danny Elfman is an added treat as well.  Especially if you are a fan of Tim Burton’s previous stop-motion endeavours, this one is worth checking out in theatres.

Frankenweenie is presented in both 2D and 3D – while the 3D works well enough, it is my opinion that the film will hold up just as well without the added dimension if you want to save the surcharge.  The stop motion sets add enough depth in themselves, especially with the impeccable lighting.

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Frankenweenie Review by Nicole

**** (out of 4)

What if you could resurrect a deceased loved one?  Tim Burton explores this concept in Frankenweenie, a stop motion animated feature inspired by the short film of the same name.  Set in the 1960s, the film revolves around Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan), a shy boy whose only companion is his dog Sparky.  When Sparky gets killed by a car, Victor is heartbroken.  But one day in school, the science teacher, Mr. Ryzkruski (Martin Landau) demonstrates how a dead frog can move with electric current.

Victor is intrigued and that night goes to the pet cemetery and digs up Sparky.  He takes the body home, and rigs up a device in the attic to resurrect the dog with lightening.  The weather cooperates and Sparky is brought back to life.  His life is to be kept a secret, but Sparky gets out and one of Victor’s classmates, Edgar E. Gore (Atticus Shaffer) discovers the secret.  Pretty soon, every kid in Victor’s class tries to bring carcasses to life, in order to win the science fair.  But since their motives are out of greed, not love, their “projects” become huge disasters.

Frankenweenie is quite philosophical in its questions about life and death.  Sparky dies before his time and therefore his soul isn’t ready to leave.  When brought back to life, he is still the same dog.  But other animals that have died in natural ways are not meant to come back, so these small critters come back as undead giant monsters.  Other living critters, such as sea monkeys and a cat, become victims of human curiosity or carelessness, hence their mutant forms.

The film is animated with incredible detail.  Each hand crafted character, set and prop looks like it was made with love.  The puppets have the same quirky design as Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, another film that deals with life and death issues.  Everything about Frankenweenie has an old school charm.  Each little visual detail suggests the 1960s. bringing an innocence to an otherwise dark tale.  Shot in black and white, the film looks like an old television program.

However, there are two references that seem fifty years out of place, one about computers and the other about Pluto being demoted as a planet.  While the computer reference could refer to the 1960s because no internet is ever mentioned, the Pluto reference does not make sense when it was only demoted a few years ago.  These moments are jarring and take one out of the film.

However, despite these minor inaccuracies, Frankenweenie is brilliant.  The dialogue is clever, the characters are quirky and, most of all, the film has a lot of heart.  Anyone who has an animal companion can relate to the story.  This movie is certain to become a Halloween classic.

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Frankenweenie Review by Maureen

**** (out of 4)

Once again, Tim Burton has worked his unique brand of stop motion animation magic.  Frankenweenie is a weird and visually brilliant film that will touch anyone who has lost a beloved pet.  Filmed in black and white and backed by an amazing score by Danny Elfman, Frankenweenie works on every level.  The attention to detail is what makes Tim Burton’s work so wonderful to watch.  However, it’s the story that gives this film its electrically charged heart.

The film opens with the Frankenstein family, Mom (Catherine O’Hara), Dad (Martin Short), Victor (Charlie Tahan) and adorable dog Sparky watching one of Victor’s home made movie projects, starring Sparky.  Victor likes to spend time in the attic making films and stretching his imagination.  The fact that Sparky seems to be his only and best friend has Mom and Dad worried.  At their encouragement, Victor joins the baseball team and it’s there that his life changes.  When Sparky dies, Victor turns to his imagination and his knowledge of science to make sure Sparky never leaves him again.

Meanwhile, at New Holland Elementary, the odd science teacher Mr. Ryzkruski (Martin Landau) gets the kids going on their projects for the science fair.  When the other kids figure out what Victor did with Sparky, they make their own plans to jolt some life back into assorted dead creatures.  Mayhem ensues and Victor and his love of Sparky saves New Holland from disaster.

With Halloween just around the corner, Frankenweenie is a perfect choice for older kids and adults especially those who find Tim Burton’s unique style appealing.  Younger viewers will find many of the scenes a little scary.  Frankenweenie reminds me of Tim Burton’s other masterpiece, Corpse Bride, and is another of his films that I’ll want to watch again and again on disc.  In the meantime, Frankenweenie is spectacular on the big screen.

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Frankenweenie Review by Tony

**** (out of 4)

Frankenweenie is a B/W stop-motion film by Tim Burton. Victor Frankenstein’s (Charlie Tahan) only friend is his dog Sparky, the star of his own horror films. When Sparky is killed by a car, Victor uses lightning in his attic lab to bring him back to life, inspired by his eccentric science teacher (Martin Landau). The secret of Sparky’s resurrection is discovered by class science fair rivals, including the hunchbacked E. Gore (Atticus Shaffer), chubby Bob (Robert Capron) and Japanese-born Toshiaki (James Hiroyuki Liao), and attempted on other critters with terrorizing results.

The photoreal miniature sets (with minor anachronisms), brilliantly evoking the 1960s and classic and not so great horror films going back to James Whale, are populated with typical Tim Burton figures. The witty script is carried by an excellent voice cast that also includes Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short as Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein and other key characters, Winona Rider, and Tom Kenny as the townsfolk. Countless references to previous horror scenes are made with affectionate humour, all under an appropriate score from Burton’s house composer Danny Elfman.

By comparison to the recent ParaNorman, Frankenweenie is even better, arguably the best animated feature of the year. Though both films are suitable for all but the smallest children, fans of the genre will appreciate them much more.

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Consensus: Beautifully brought to life through black and white stop motion animation, Tim Burton’s deeply personal Frankenweenie pays homage to classic filmmaking, with memorable characters and a heartfelt story.  **** (Out of 4)

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