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Source: Jonathan Stryker

Oct 5, 2012, 8:0 AM

Tim Burton's FRANKENWEENIE (2012) is a big-screen remake of his own 1984 short film of the same name and utilizes the Frankenstein monster tale by Mary Shelley to tell a clever story about a young boy, Victor Frankenstein, and how he copes with the loss of his dog. 


Victor loves making 16mm movies with his dog, Sparky, in his hometown of New Holland, which looks like Everytown, USA.  Sparky stars as the Sparkysaurus, because what young boy doesn't love dinosaurs?  Mixing footage of Sparky with self-made animation, Victor's movie shows off an imagination no doubt inspired by "The Twilight Zone" and THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953).  Victor, obviously and alter-ego for director Burton, is an awkward child, and keeps a low profile from his classmates and his neighbor Mr. Burgermeister, an overweight man who brandishes a hedgeclipper.  During a baseball game, Victor manages to hit a home run, but unfortunately his dog chases the ball into the street and is killed by a car.  Devastated, Victor mopes through school until his science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski, shows the class how to use electricity to move a dead frog's legs.  Experiencing a eureka moment, Victor is filled with a new sense of purpose, and converts his parents' attic into a makeshift laboratory.  Following his teacher's instructions, he reanimates Sparky with the help of lightning.

Victor does his best to keep Sparky's existence a secret, and a creepy kid from the neighborhood, Edgar, wants to know how Victor did it.  Word gets out about Sparky, and other kids vying for a science project attempt similar experiements until things get out of control.  A rat becomes a crazed monster; a turtle is made enormous and stomps among a town square carnival  like a mixture of Godzilla and Gamera; and sea monkeys run amok through the streets.  A cute, next-door poodle who fancies Sparky is made to resemble Elsa Lanchaster; the name "Shelley" appears on a tombstone; and BAMBI is displayed on a local theatre marquee.  The film's ending is a loving homage to James Whale's 1931 classic that started it all and fueled nightmare for years to come. 

Thematically, FRANKENWEENIE shares many similarities to Henry Selick's 1993 film THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (produced by Tim Burton) in that a protagonist compelled to do a good deed ends up making a mess of things.  The film can been seen in 2D and 3D, though the latter is preferable as it bolsters the onscreen antics.  A black cat sticks its head into the audience and hisses in one of the more memorable sequences.

Filmed on Canon EOS 5D Mark II single lens reflux cameras and printed in black and white, FRANKENWEENIE looks lovely.  It would be nice to see black and white return to the screen as an artform. 

Danny Elfman provides another memorable score to this amazingly-animated stop-motion film.  Highly recommended in 3D, and finally someone got the right idea to release it in time for Halloween. 

Take a look at the MAD MONSTER PARTY, a film that inspired director Burton to pursue this method of filmmaking. 


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