Victor (Voiced by Charlie Tahan), is a very different kind of boy, he does not mix with school friends, plays no sport, and likes to spend his days with his faithful dog Sparky. When his dad encourages Victor to “man up”, a harmless game of baseball leads to tragedy, as Sparky is ran over and killed by a passing car. Victor is not yet ready to give up on his friend, and turns to science to help bring Sparky back to life, and he is reunited with his best friend. But joy is short lived as Victor’s amazing invention corresponds with the school science project, and it seems everyone wants to bring a much-loved pet back from the grave.
Frankenweenie, is essentially a child friendly version of Frankenstein, with a dog replacing the legendary creature. For those a little “in the know” this is a movie that has lots of "in" jokes, and many a homage to the classic movies of the 1930’s onwards. You feel in some ways like you have come home if you are a fan of Tim Burton, because not only are there these references involved, but Boris Karloff gets a particular amount of attention, and Martin Landau (who played Boris Karloff in Ed Wood) is reunited with the director taking the flow full circle.
The movie is bound to be a big hit with kids, because of the way it blends what is essentially a fairy tale, with a classic horror story. Let’s face it all kids like to flirt with something that scares them, that being said parents need not worry there is nothing to scare the kids here.
Frankenweenie does have it’s flaws, the 3D is fairly flat, with only the odd occasion where it really stands out. The other issue is that apart from homage, there is none of the dual audience gags we have become accustomed too. For over two decades, animated movies have made a point of throwing in some jokes and references for adults that the kids wont see, this has none of that, so older viewers might find themselves mentally walking off.
The movie features a nice ensemble cast who lend their vocal talents to the characters including Winona Ryder, Christopher Lee, and Catherine O’Hara. All of whom have close ties with Burton, nepotism is his strong point, and when he likes someone, he goes to them time after time, an approach that for Burton pays dividends each and every time, as it does here.
The animation is impeccable, this really has been a labour of love for Burton, the black and white shooting adds another dimension to this. The downside is that the gags are thin on the ground, and when a gag works (for the most part this surrounds various bits of Sparky flying off, like his tail when he wags is) it’s used over, and over again, to the extent that the humour is gone. From the waypoint of a child this is bound to be good, but if you’re an adult you might be a little disappointed.
Frankenweenie get's it's UK cinema premier on 10th of October as part of the London Film Festival, it will then go on general release on the 17th of October.