Mar 11, 2013

[Movies] Frankenweenie (2012)

This stop-motion film was created by THE Tim Burton, whom many of us fell in love with after A Nightmare Before Christmas. And the fact that it was based on a short film that he had also made back in 1984 naturally got a lot of folks excited about this particular project.

From the title alone, we know that it was meant to pay homage to the original Frankenstein story but with the twist of our mad scientist being an overly curious boy. This movie expanded on that core concept and decided to pay homage to the classic horror movie genre in general given the decision to stick to black-and-white for all of the movie.

But the classic horror movie look has always always been the already sort of synonymous with the Tim Burton style, something that he only really gets to contrast with the surprise use of bright colors as seen in past projects. This movie stayed the course in terms of the color set, but I'm not sure if the expanded story was really ready to become a feature length movie. The story really could have been tighter, at least for me.

But on to the review.

Synopis: Frankenweenie is the 2012 stop-animation feature based on the Tim Burton 1984 short film of the same name. Burton also directed this movie with a screenplay by John August.

The movie starts with young Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tatan) whose interests include creating films and science in general. The main star of most of his little movies is his dog Sparky. At school he's a bit of a recluse among his peers but he does pour himself into his schoolwork, especially Mr. Rzykruski's (Martin Landau) science classes. Victor's father tries to get him to interact with others more and encourages him to get into sports.

Ever the dutiful son, Victor tries baseball but during a game Sparky runs after the ball and gets run over by a car. The loss of Sparky hits Victor hard - at least until he remembers what Mr. Rzykruski had taught about how electricity can stimulate muscle movement. Thus he conducts an experiment of his own and tries to bring Sparky to life during a particularly fierce lightning storm. And what is more surprising is that he actually succeeds - and that's where the real story begins.

Now the core premise is still as fun as it was in 1984 - the idea of a kid somehow bringing his dead dog back to life is both adorable and macabre at the same time. But the decision to expand this story further and try to stretch it out didn't quite go well with me.

First, all of the kids seemed to be somehow disturbed in one way or another. As much as this sort of falls into the Tim Burton style for quirky characters, you still need "straight" characters to balance things out. And it just struck me as rather odd that pretty much all the kids featured in the story seemed to be rather weird in more ways than one.

Then the center part of the movie sort of dragged on for me as the experiments expanded and the other kids got clued in to what Victor had managed to accomplish. A lot of the sequences in this part of the movie didn't quite grab me nor did they come across as somehow endearing. Don't get me wrong, I loved the dog. But beyond that it wasn't all that good to go along with.

At least things did sort of recover at the end. The big finale and the climax as a whole was a lot of fun and it certainly gave the movie a shot of life in the last stretch of the story. If only more of the movie somehow tapped that part of Burton's unique sense of humor.

From a technical standpoint, the movie was well-done. I do most certainly appreciate what they had accomplished with their stop-motion models and the motion actually felt a lot like CGI to me more often than not. That says a lot about how smooth things were and how polished the entire project was.

On the whole, the movie had a lot of potential but it could have used somewhat better writing or maybe a clearer creative vision. There were a lot of classic Tim Burton elements and it was nice to see all those in play but they didn't quite all come together as ideally as hoped.

Don't get me wrong, Frankenweenie is still fun movie for folks of all ages at the end of the day. It's not exactly rocket science in complexity but it's still a decently fun ride. Thus the movie still gets 3.5 strange pets that Victor brings to life out of a possible 5.

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