“Young Victor conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog Sparky back to life, only to face unintended, sometimes monstrous, consequences.” -IMDB
Winona Ryder Elsa Van Helsing (voice)
Catherine O’Hara Mrs. Frankenstein/Weird Girl/Gym Teacher (voice)
Martin Short Mr. Frankenstein/Mr. Burgemeister/Nassor (voice)
Martin Landau Mr. Rzykruski (voice)
Leonard Ripps, Tim Burton
Animation, Comedy, Family, Horror, Sci-Fi
Fri 05 Oct 2012 UTC
IMDB Rating: 7.0
You’d think death and grieving were topics best left for grown up movies like Ordinary People et. al., but these topics work surprisingly well in Tim Burton’s animated movie Frankenweenie. It is a highly enjoyable ride for families to the “other side” and back again. As Victor’s science teacher tells him, science experiments must have “heart” as well and brain. A boy’s love for his dog becomes a circular journey of learning to let go. Where does the merry-go-round end? I wont tell you that here but know it is a wildly fun, inspiring ride for viewers of all ages.
As one would expect in a Disney/Burton film, there is an all star cast of voices. Catherine O’Hara, known for her role as the mom in Home Alone plays three characters: Mrs. Frankenstien, Weird Girl, and Gym Teacher. Her voice was the most striking at first for me. When I first heard her doing a character I thought, “Wait a minute I KNOW that voice!” Then you start thinking about where it’s from. Martin Short also does a noteworthy job at the voices of Mr. Frankenstein, Mr. Burgemeister, and Nassor. Incidentally, Mr. Burgemeister is an homage to the Rankin Bass character from Santa Claus in Comin’ to Town and is a delight to watch. He is included likely because this movie was made in “stop action” format with “puppets” as they are called in the credits the same way Santa Claus is Coming to Town was. It is also the same format Burton utilized for The Nightmare Before Christmas. In a time when digital computers seem to be the format for all animation, it is exciting to see this style used to tell a story effectively on screen. There are many other household names in the movie playing a lot of entertaining characters.
Victor is a grade school boy who has a great dog named Sparky. We see them at play and get to know Sparky’s extra-large personality and warmth as a dog in the early part of the movie. This is shown well through his relationship with Victor but also through his relationship “through the fence” with a poodle and other kids. Sparky is clearly an exceptional and loving dog. I wanted to take him home myself.
As you probably have already gleaned from the trailers, Sparky dies and Victor just won’t “let him go” so-to-speak. This is where Victor tries bringing Sparky back to life in his attic just like the Frankenstein movies. By the way, Victor’s last name is also Frankenstein in Frankenweenie. The nods are not subtle in this movie but that’s ok because everything works to make a wonderful and fun family film about death and loss. It also becomes a wild ride reminiscent of Godzilla and Gremlins. Without spoiling all the fun in between, we learn that bringing things back from the dead can have monstrous consequences. There is a somewhat puzzling (for me) ending but ultimately it all works out to be one of the best family films (for all ages) I have seen an a long time. I think I can safely call it an instant classic.