Featuring the voice talents of Charlie Tahan, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Atticus Shaffer, and Winona Ryder
Directed by Tim Burton
I had seen the original live action Frankenweenie short film years ago and remember thinking that it didn't have enough story to pad its thirty minute running time. So, admittedly, I went into the new animated version a little reluctantly doubting that Tim Burton could make it work with even more time. Somehow, though, this black-and-white stop-motion animated flick fares a bit better than its predecessor likely thanks to an amusing climax full of homages to classic horror films like Godzilla, The Mummy, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon that ends the film on a positive note.
Borrowing heavily from Frankenstein for inspiration, Frankenweenie tells the tale of young Victor Frankenstein and his lovable pet dog Sparky. Together, they're a great pair and the shy loner Victor finds great comfort in his pet. Unfortunately, one afternoon a horrible tragedy befalls Sparky as he has an untimely meeting with the front bumper of a car. Depressed, Victor wallows through his everyday life until one day during science class, his new teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau) displays that despite the fact that living things die, their muscles and nerves can still react to electric stimulus. With the school science fair on the horizon, Victor sets out to reanimate his beloved Sparky.
Unlike this year's previous stop-motion entries -- Paranorman and The Pirates! Band of Misfits -- Frankenweenie's animation is charmingly more herky-jerky in nature. Whereas the aforementioned films had a fluidity that had me wondering if I was watching a computer-animated version of stop motion, Tim Burton's film was lovingly "old school" and it worked to great effect considering this is Burton's homage to classic horror films. Both styles prove that stop-motion animation is still a wonderful format...it's simply unfortunate that the general public doesn't seem to feel that way as none of the three films proved to be overly successful at the box office.
With some nice vocal turns from Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, and Martin Landau and a beautiful black-and-white landscape to feast upon, I'd love to say that Frankenweenie is completely successful. Unfortunately, this animated film falls into the same trap as the short that preceded it -- there's just not enough story here. Granted, the animated film does adequately fluff out the basic story and while it is more successful in that department than the short, it still doesn't quite achieve success. For a film with a eighty-minute runtime, I shouldn't find myself staring frequently at a watch.
The RyMickey Rating: B-