By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

In 1984, before becoming famous for feature films such as Batman, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands, director Tim Burton made a live-action short film for Disney titled Frankenweenie. This more family friendly update of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein actually never saw a theatrical release in the U.S., as Disney felt the material too disturbing for children.  Disney had planned to play Burton’s short prior to screenings of Pinocchio when it was re-released that year.  Eventually, the film would find audiences via the home video market.

After a couple of couple of films which received either mediocre to bad reviews (Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows), Tim Burton has returned to theaters and returned to top form by re-visiting his acclaimed short and turning it into a feature length movie.  Burton chose to remake/update his old film short by using stop-motion animation and expanding a bit on his simple retelling of the legendary Frankenstein horror story.

Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan), a bright eyed, intelligent kid, loves to make movies at home, starring his dog and best friend Sparky.  When Sparky is tragically killed in an accident, Victor decides to bring him back from the dead.  Victor’s parents (Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short) are shocked and stunned by what Victor has accomplished, but still support him.  The people in Victor’s neighborhood and town, however, do not handle this amazing feat quite as well and all hell breaks loose when they discover what he has done.

Screenwriter John August does a fine job expanding on Burton’s story, giving it more depth and a stronger message promoting intelligence and knowledge over ignorance and fear.  The film does get a tad preachy, but August and Burton do exercise enough restraint that keeps the preaching from being unbearable.  For one thing, as dark and bizarre as Burton’s film world can get, and as morbid as the material is, he and August have some lovely moments of levity and some awesomely fun nods to the classic horror films and stories which have inspired Burton’s career.

The cast assembled for this movie never disappoint.  Besides O’Hara, Short and Tahan, the film features Winona Ryder, Atticus Shaeffer, Conchatta Ferrell, and the incomparable Martin Landau.  The film was shot in black and white and in 3D.  I really enjoyed the use of black and white to give the movie a dark and classic horror look; however, the 3D, once again, did not really add much to the experience.  I see no reason to spend the extra money on the 3D version.

I will, however, recommend that people pay as much as a full priced ticket to see Frankenweenie.  I must warn that some of the images may be a little frightening for small children.  Fans of Tim Burton should be quite pleased with his latest entry. Those who have already seen the original Frankenweenie will appreciate how Burton recreates certain scenes with the stop motion animation, as well the changes and omissions made in this upgrade.  If one has not seen the original short, I think it best to wait and watch it after the seeing the feature film version.  Having seen the original short prior to this version does take away from some of the surprises.




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