Ah, there's nothing quite like the the story of a young boy and his dog -- especially if the boy is a mad scientist and the dog is brought back from the dead.  This is Frankenweenie, a black and white, stop-motion Disney movie that allows director Tim Burton to expand his early short film into a full-length feature.

In the quiet town of New Holland, young Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) enjoys science, making very low-budget horror monster movies, and playing with his dog Sparky.  Sparky loves being with Victor, playing with the poodle next door, chewing toys and chasing balls, and running around.  When Victor's parents (Martin Sheen and Catherine O'Hara) want Victor to do more, he plays baseball -- which, tragically, leads to Sparky's death.  But inspired by science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau), Victor is able to use lightning to bring Sparky back to life (albeit with bolts in his neck and a lot of stitches).  Too bad Sparky isn't content to stay hidden in the attic...
To fill out the movie, and provide some action and tension, there's a school science fair gone horribly awry.  The hunchbacked, creepy Edgar "E" Gore (Atticus Shaffer) sees Sparky and makes Victor show how he did it.  But "E" Gore can't keep the secret, and soon all of Victor's weird classmates are trying to bring animals back to life -- with disastrous results.  This all comes together the night of the town celebration, promoted by Mayor Burgermeister (also voiced by Short) and including cute Goth-girl Elsa Van Helsing (Winona Ryder).  Can Victor save the day?  Will the scared villagers see Sparky as anything but a monster?

Frankenweenie is... a mixed result of a movie.  Tim Burton's love of the old-style horror and monster movies shines through, and this is basically a creature feature that's safe for young kids.  (As a dog owner, I also loved seeing Sparky's boundless enthusiasm and energy -- even if the latter needed to be recharged now and then.)  Still, the movie is largely superficial, with most characters as one-dimensional caricatures and no doubt who to root for and who to boo.  The creatures gone amok felt at times like it was done to pad the original story out so it was long enough for a feature film, and if you've seen the short original (which I'm sure will be included on the dvd) you know most of what happens.  Frankenweenie is a decent film for the Halloween season, enjoyable enough but not all that exciting.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: