In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_american_sniper

American Sniper

American Sniper proves the dictum “never count an auteur out” by proving itself as Eastwood’s strongest directorial effort since 2009's underrated Invictus pretty much right…

Thumb_large_20ut2u5dmgl6szdu0adaq8u5zoc

The Interview

Opportunities at rich satire flatten out into Hangover dude-dope-doodoo jokes, where the premise is that there’s nothing funnier than watching over-privileged grown men act out…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie Movie Review
  |  

In 1984, Tim Burton launched his career with a live-action short named "Frankenweenie," and now he returns to that material for the new "Frankenweenie," a stop-motion, black-and-white animated comedy inspired by "The Bride of Frankenstein" and countless other classic horror films in which science runs amok.

The story takes place in a familiar Burtonesque world of characters with balloon heads, saucer eyes and pretzel limbs. Seeing them in b&w only underlines their grotesquerie, and indeed the whole story benefits from the absence of color, because this is a stark world without many soothing tones. Burton uses a stop-motion animation method employing puppets, and I learn from Variety that he employed "about 33 animators working to produce five seconds of film per week apiece." Amazing that such a lively film took such laborious piecework.

The story involves young Victor Frankenstein (voice of Charlie Tahan) and his dog Sparky, who is not nearly as smart as Uggie the dog in "The Artist." Sparky is one of those dogs who is way too affectionate and eager to please, but Victor loves him and is heartbroken when Sparky runs into the street and is blindsided  by a car. Victor buries his poor dead mutt under a grim tombstone in one of those horror movie cemeteries where you imagine the flowers would be in b&w even if the movie wasn't.

Victor's science teacher is Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau) who looks and sounds like an elongated Vincent Price. If you wonder how his voice can sound elongated, apply here. The next day at school he puts his students to work applying electrical charges to the nerves of dead frogs, which makes their legs twitch. This brought back strong memories of my own frog dissections. When you make a list of things you learned in school and have never needed to use since, don't forget the dead frogs.

Victor is a science-crazy kid with a weird laboratory up in the attic, which seems two times larger than the suburban house he shares with his parents (Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short). The frogs inspire him to return to the cemetery and smuggle poor Sparky into the attic — where, yes, after a few stitches and patches, Victor is able to reanimate him with a timely lightning bolt. It must be said that the newly energized Sparky has much the same manic personality as the dog in the original version, although like your cellphone, he sometimes needs to be recharged. His tail or an ear flies off when he gets too eager, but otherwise he holds up pretty well.

Victor becomes obsessed with hiding the resurrected dog from his parents. When you wonder why some kids are bored in the suburbs, it may be because of the suffocating effect of parents like Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein. Given that they've had to live with that name, no doubt they're not eager to have it known that Victor has animated his dog — especially not since he used lightning bolts just as in the creation of the Bride of Frankenstein. It's the sort of thing your neighbors get weird about.

Word gets out, however, and soon all the little brats in Victor's class are applying high-voltage juice to their own dead animals, and even a seahorse. This leads to events at a town parade equal to anything you've seen in a Japanese monster movie.

This isn't one of Burton's best, but it has zealous energy. It might have been too macabre for kids in past, but kids these days, they've seen it all, and the charm of a boy and his dog retains its appeal. I only hope that young Victor doesn't let Sparky lie out in the sun for too long.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Roger Moore's Best: "The Spy Who Loved Me"

An FFC comments on Roger Moore's best James Bond film, "The Spy Who Loved Me."

The Ten Best TV Programs of 2014

The best television programs of 2014.

The Ten Best Films of 2014

The ten best films of 2014, as chosen by the film critics of RogerEbert.com.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus