Friday, October 05, 2012

REVIEW: Frankenweenie

Going into Tim Burton's Frankenweenie scared me - and not for the right reasons.

Burton has been in a slump of late. Alice in Wonderland was hugely popular, but I couldn't see why. I thought it was cluttered whimsy that tried too hard to make sense of nonsense. HIs last film, Dark Shadows, was even worse, representing the nadir of his career. He hadn't made an A-range film since Sleepy Hollow. And his last foray into animation, Corpse Bride, was underwhelming too.

Still, I took solace in the fact that instead of grafting his twisted sensibility onto someone else's idea, Burton adapted himself. Frankenweenie began life as an animated short that got Burton, a onetime Disney animator, Hollywood attention. Now he's expanded it into a feature - and thankfully, it's kind of a return to form.

I'd stop well short of calling it a great movie. As is so often the case, Burton excels at creating worlds but stumbles creating fully realized characters. The lead character, a young Victor Frankenstein, is sweet but dull, at least for a kid who reanimates his own dog. And the other kids aren't terribly interesting either. The most fun character is the spooky science teacher, wonderfully voiced by Martin Landau, whom Burton directed to an Oscar for playing Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood.

Since the kids are rather plain, it took me a while to develop rooting interest in the story. Then, thankfully, things get really wacky when the other kids try to replicate Burton's experiment, with wonderfully bizarre results. I don't want to give away too many visuals, but I'll give you this clue - the nastiest Sea Monkeys you've ever seen.

It also helps that this material is obviously close to Burton's heart, making the emotional pull stronger as the movie goes along. And I can't help but enjoy a stop-motion animated film in black and white. Frakenweenie isn't the great movie it could have been, but it at least gives me hope that Burton's career is alive ... It's alive, it's ALIVE!




PS: The 3D here is decent, but inessential. You won't miss anything if you see it flat.


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