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Movie Review: Frankenweenie

Posted October 12, 2012 by Stephen Rooney in 2012


Ramp Rating


Genre: , ,
Release Date: 17th October


Great animation, a few laughs, and a couple of surprisingly good science jokes.


Few surprises and a bit run-of-the-mill.

A heart-warming tale of one boy and his dog, brought to you by Tim Burton. Other organs which are warmed include the lungs, liver, kidneys and everything else inside your pet pooch.

by Stephen Rooney
Full Article

Frankenweenie is Tim Burton’s latest attempt at being Tim Burton. You know the way Tim Burton is so dark and edgy? Tim Burton digs that, and wishes he could be as Tim Burtony as Tim Burton. In an attempt to do so he’s reached into the ol’ Tim Burton back catalogue and grabbed two of his earliest short movies, Frankenweenie (from which we get the plot) and Vincent (from which we get the art style), stuck them in a blender and given us a one-and-a-half hour long Tim Burton smoothie. And you know what? It ain’t half bad.

The story at the heart of Frankenweenie is a simple one: boy likes dog. Dog dies. Dog is brought back from the dead through unholy science. Craziness ensues. Everyone probably learns a valuable lesson or something. As with anything, it’s all about the window dressing and Frankenweenie certainly looks the part. The claymation is smooth, the models are detailed and the characters look warped and a little creepy, but not quite creepy enough to scare the little’uns.

That’s actually the running theme of this movie; Frankenweenie is a film that flirts with edgy ideas, and in the end decides to back down in order to keep the parents on-side. It constantly tries to walk a line between being a family-friendly Disney cartoon and a product of Burton’s dark imagination. In fairness, it doesn’t do a bad job but when the two have to compete, the mouse generally wins. There are some genuine laughs in there and a few moments which will make you wince, but overall it feels like a film that plays it a little too safe, a little too often.  It’s brilliantly polished, with great animation, solid voice acting and a good score, but with all that polish you lose the rough edges which, in some ways, made The Nightmare Before Christmas so visceral and awesome.

Mind you, however uninspired the main thrust of the film is, there’s actually an awful lot of interesting stuff floating in the periphery. Some of the funniest jokes are the ones that are slipped quietly into the background, the most touching relationship in the movie is between two dogs, and hands-down the most interesting character is the science teacher, Mr Rzykruski, who has a grand total of four scenes. There’re also a ton of Easter eggs for any fans of horror, especially the old Hammer movies of the 1950s-70s.

All-in-all, it’s pretty good. Apart from one awesome science lesson explaining how lightning works, there’s nothing outstanding in the film, but it doesn’t make any mistakes either. With Frankenweenie, Burton goes back to his roots, even hitting us with an autobiographical weird kid who loves making movies and becomes enamoured with Vincent Price (or someone who looks an awful lot like him). In terms of entertainment value it’s not a return to the good ol’ days, but it’s a solid film and is definitely a lurching step in the right direction.

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About the Author

Stephen Rooney

A freelance writer of things, stuff and whatchamacallits. Based in Dublin with a keen interest in science, politics, gaming, and the absurd.

  • http://twitter.com/ElleEmSee Laura

    Part of the thing that put me off this film, aside from the fact I’ve already seen the original live action short, is that this Vincent is not just a carbon copy of Vincent from the ‘Vincent’ animated short but he also appears to be the child version of Victor (?) from Corpse Bride, even down to the face shape and haircut.
    Burton needs to get himself some new characters.

    • http://www.lisamcinerney.com Lisa McInerney

      I was just going to say this! “Oh FFS, that little fellow even looks like Johnny Depp”. I’m getting so, so tired of Burton’s shtick and I’m sick of feeling like some sort of pariah because of it, dammit.

      • http://twitter.com/nuckpang Stephen R.

        I don’t think you’re that much of a pariah, really. Whenever I said “I’m going to review the new Tim Burton movie” there was generally someone who’d roll their eyes and complain. Rightly so, really. Burton’s become the Coldplay of cinema, he’s just too easy to dislike.

        • http://www.lisamcinerney.com Lisa McInerney

          I reckon so. Like Coldplay’s musical output, there’s no denying he makes distinctive, accessible films and he has a touch of brilliance about him… but like a Coldplay album, you know what you’re getting before the film even begins. And what was once magical and horrible in equal parts is now just… expected. Which is a real shame.

    • http://twitter.com/nuckpang Stephen R.

      Oh no, no, the kid in this is Victor Frankenstein, who brings his dog back from the dead, not Victor Von Dot, who brings a woman back from the dead (and then his dog). They’re totally different! Although I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the same rat monster in four different Tim Burton movies, so you may not be wrong…

      Whatever about the looks though, Vincent (from Vincent) and Victor (from this) aren’t quite carbon copies. In Vincent, the kid has a real personality and a wickedly evil imagination which I really enjoyed. In this, there’s none of that sense of fun about him.

      You know, ye’re starting to make me regret that extra half star I was fretting over giving it :P

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