Monday, October 28, 2013


Directed by Tim Burton.
2012. Rated PG, 87 minutes.
Charlie Tahan
Atticus Shaffer
James Hiroyuki Liao
Conchata Ferrell
Tom Kenny

Victor Frankenstein (Tahan) doesn't have many friends other than Sparky, his dog. Victor’s father notices this and urges his son to get our there with the other kids. Specifically, he gets the boy to participate in a baseball game. Not wanting to be left out, Sparky chases the ball into the street and is killed when hit by a car. Inspired by what he learned in science class, Victor successfully resurrects the dog. Initially, this is unbeknownst to anyone else. When word gets out, all the kids want to bring something back to life in hopes of winning the upcoming science fair. Of course, things don’t go as well for them as they did for Victor.

The journey director Tim Burton takes us on is one steeped in nostalgia, paying homage to horror’s glorious past every step of the way. While Victor himself is a rather typical looking Burton creation, the rest of the kids look like classic monster movie characters. One kid resembles Igor, another Frankenstein’s monster, and so on. The science teacher is a dead ringer for the legendary Vincent Price. There are many instances we’ll note as inspired by those old pictures and the entire thing is shown in a traditional black and white.

Simply incorporating elements from great movies is not enough to make this film any good. Fortunately, Burton tells us a wonderful story. It functions as a tale about a boy and his dog and as a horror flick. In true Burton fashion, the boy is a loner and a bit of an outcast. This is displayed by a brilliant inversion of the way the director usually presents things. In movies such as Edward Scissorhands, Batman, and as recently as Dark Shadows, the protagonist is not only clearly different from those around him, but to us, also. Whether it’s a physical deformity, ghastly colored skin, or just running around in a costume, we saw something strange about them. Here, the hero looks more like us than anyone else in the movie. The other characters are the more gothic creations. Since they are the majority, Victor still comes across as the oddball. However, like other leads in the Burton canon, he’s an oddball by nature, not some stubborn contrarianism. He also has a good heart. Misguided as it may have been, he brought Sparky back to life out of love for the dog. He tries to stop others from doing similar things because he knows there is great potential danger. Victor is easy to root for.

Like the best of Burton, several genres convene seamlessly. Dark comedy and horror blend into a deliciously macabre family flick. Whether we’re laughing, noticing something lifted from an eighty year old movie or staring slack-jawed at all the mayhem of the finale, it doesn’t detract from the overall experience. It’s something the director was unsuccessful doing in the aforementioned Dark Shadows. There, his switches in mode are jarring and leave us wondering what we are supposed to be watching. In Frankenweenie, it all goes down smoothly.


  1. Good review Dell. While it definitely was a bit darker than it should have been, the movie still reminded me how great Tim Burton can be on all spectrums, especially when he seems to show a sort of love and care for the material. Haven't seen that from the guy in awhile and it has me somewhat hopeful for what he has in store for us next.

  2. You have the key, he seems to have great care for this material.