Things haven’t been going too well for Tim Burton as of late. His past three films underperformed at the box office, and his producer-only efforts haven’t fared much better. The passion just hasn’t been there in his latest offerings like it was in his more classic films.
My expectations were pretty low when it was announced that he’d be remaking one of his early short films as a stop-motion feature. What I thought was just re-hashing in its purest form actually turned out to be Burton returning to his roots.
“Frankenweenie” is set is the happy little suburb of New Holland. Victor, played by Charlie Tahan, is the odd child in what would pass as a normal city in a Tim Burton world.
After his dog Sparky is hit by a car, Victor decides to bring him back to life in the same manner that Dr. Frankenstein brought his monster to life.
Rounding out the voice cast are Martin Short, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Catherine O’Hara and “The Middle’s” Atticus Shaffer.
A tribute to horror genre
The story of “Frankenweenie” feels less like recent Tim Burton films, and more like his earlier films such as “Edward Scissorhands.”
Despite its standard pacing, there are some elements to the story that come across as unnecessary, but the film is more or less a tribute to the horror films of the 40’s, so it’s forgivable.
“Frankenweenie” is littered with references to the classic horror films, ranging from subtle sight-gags to caricatures of characters such as Igor or actors like Boris Karloff.
Some of the references are a little too deliberate for my tastes, but aren’t as forced as I’ve seen in other movies with similar setups.
The film’s visual style is definitely a far cry from the Tim Burton we are used to, and I mean that in a good way
Instead of having everything look like it was taken from “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” it instead feels more like his earlier films that are a little more grounded in reality, like “Edward Scissorhands” or “Beetlejuice.” It matches the 40’s-inspired style really well and allows for a more approachable visual aesthetic.
We once again have Danny Elfman scoring this film, the only Burton regular brought to the film. The one thing I have to say about his score is that you can definitely hear some bits and pieces of his early work creeping in, but only if you really listen for it.
Like the film itself, much of the score also feels more like “Edward Scissorhands” with a little bit of “Batman” thrown in for good measure.
Overall, this film surpassed my expectations and actually won me over for the most part. While there are some things with the story that don’t make a whole lot of sense, it’s more in line with the films of the 40’s, which tended to have moments like that themselves.
The overall visual and musical style is more subdued and contemporary while still remaining unique in and of itself.
“Frankenweenie” feels less like a needless rehash and more like a filmmaker’s rediscovery of his roots.