Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tim Burton's Second Effort This Year Is Much Better Than His First: Andrew's Review of "Frankenweenie" (2012)

Directed By: Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands

Starring: Charlie Tahan, Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short

Rating: PG for thematic elements, scary images and action

Run Time: 1 hour, 27 minutes

Synopsis: Victor Frankenstein (Tahan) is a smart but solitary kid who's best friend is his dog, Sparky. When Sparky dies in an accident, Victor is heart-broken until a demonstration by his science teacher inspires him to bring his dog back to life using electricity. What Victor didn't expect was for his classmates to copy him and bring their dead pets to life, too, with disastrous results.


Sarah: Last night, Andrew went and saw Tim Burton's latest stop-action animated movie Frankenweenie. I was out on a girl's night, so I didn't go to this one with him. GASP! But it's okay, he went with a friend who got to experience going to the movies with a Keck for the first time! Always a fun experience!

So, Andrew, I know you are a fan of Tim Burton. How did his latest animated movie stack up to his other movies?

Andrew: Frankenweenie is actually a great representation of Tim Burton's filmography. It has his fingerprints everywhere, from the use of black and white to Danny Elfman's score that was reminiscent of his Batman, Sleepy Hollow and Edward Scissorhands scores.

In fact, a movie I kept thinking about during this was Edward Scissorhands because of the neighborhood that Victor and his family lived in. It's a little suburban town called New Holland and it looked exactly like the neighborhood in the movie that shot Johnny Depp to stardom.

S: Now, this is the second stop-action monster movie of the late summer/fall and we both really like the last one! How did it measure up to ParaNorman?

Maybe the strongest aspect of Frankenweenie is how it takes time in the beginning to really set up the relationship between Victor and his dog Sparky.

A: In all honesty I preferred ParaNorman. Frankenweenie isn't quite as funny throughout and the heart of the film doesn't quite hit the same notes. The animation is pretty good but feels a little more rudimentary than ParaNorman, and probably more to the point I felt like the secondary characters weren't as fleshed out or as relatable as in ParaNorman. In fact, some of the secondary characters felt either like stock characters or even a bit racist as far as the Toshiaki character goes.

All that said, I felt that the voice-acting was good. I liked that some familiar Tim Burton actors were in this, like Winona Ryder (Beetlejuice) as Victor's neighbor and classmate, Elsa Van Helsing; Catherine O'Hara (Beetlejuice) as Victor's mom, the Weird Girl and the Gym Teacher; and Martin Landau (Ed Wood) as the science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski. Martin Short (Mars Attacks!) was also fairly good as Victor's dad, but not so much as Mayor Burgermeister. One of the strengths of ParaNorman was the voice-acting and it trumps Frankenweenie's, but I give points for Burton getting some of his pals to work on this with him.

S: Well, when Burton calls, people come a-running. That's a shame that it wasn't as good but the animation on ParaNorman was pretty awesome. Now, how about the storyline? This movie is based off of an old short from Burton made in 1984. Do you think that there was enough of a story here to make it worth being on the big screen? Or should it have stayed a short that just came out at Halloween?

A: You just asked the most pertinent question, in my opinion. I felt like the plot wasn't able to sustain a full movie, even if it was only 87 minutes long. And what happens is that you get your set-up, which was all fine and dandy because it gave you a good idea of the connection Victor has to his dog, Sparky. Then Sparky dies and Victor sets about to bring him back to life. That section was like a great silent film; I loved it.

But then it turns into a somewhat subpar kids film where Victor's classmates find out about the dog and use his scientific method to bring their dead pets back to life and it becomes sort of a monster movie. And the different monsters were neat and fun (like the sea monkeys essentially being gremlins) but nothing of substance occurs until a climactic scene at an old-style windmill (that was VERY reminiscent of the climactic scene in Sleepy Hollow).

Honestly, at times I was a little bored. I chuckled at plenty of things like little nods to other horror films or books (i.e. a dead pet turtle's name being Shelley, like Frankenstein author Mary Shelley). Other than that though, I didn't get a whole lot out of it.

S: What a shame! There's nothing entertaining about a movie where the beginning and end are good but sustained with nothing in the middle. 

Just like ParaNorman, Frankenweenie was in 3D. The 3D in ParaNorman was like my favorite part of that movie. How did this one compare?

Tim Burton's Frankenweenie is a beautiful looking 3D animated film and Andrew definitely recommends seeing it in 3D if you're going to see it at all.

A: The 3D was actually pretty good! Much like ParaNorman, Frankenweenie gets the benefit of actually being filmed in 3D because it's a stop-motion movie where all the characters and settings are physical 3D objects. It was nice to see that round shapes actually looked round and you could actually see the depth between foreground objects and background objects. That depth made it feel like you were somehow more involved in the proceedings, like you're watching a stage play almost. Any scenes taking place in the pet cemetery were particularly cool to see in 3D.

So I would say that it's absolutely worth the extra fee to see Frankenweenie is 3D because the third dimension comes naturally to it and had almost zero strain on the eyes.

S: I'm not sure that, from what you're saying, the rest of the movie is worth the extra fee. Okay, so what are your final thoughts on Frankenweenie?

A: It's still one of the stronger animated movies to come out in the last few years and it's a great way to introduce your children to both Halloween-themed movies and Tim Burton films. It's classic Burton and for that I have to give it good marks. He certainly had his vision and executed it perfectly.

FINAL VERDICT: If you have kids and are thinking of seeing it, absolutely do it because it has stuff for both adults and kids. If you're not taking a child to see it and you're not a big Burton fan, then maybe catch it when it's on home media instead.

(Individual Scores - A: 3.5/5  Sarah: N/A)

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