Actually Frankenweenie is Tim Burton’s creation but Disney’s in the small print. Burton’s antidote to the sweet and the light is set in a small town that could provide thriving markets for cosmetic surgery and psychotherapy. This stop-motion, black and white tells of young Victor Frankenstein, son of the only normal couple in New Holland. Yes really.
Victor’s father finds his son’s devotion to his dog, the prophetically-named Sparky, film-making and Science a little weird but the introduction of wholesome outdoor activity has disastrous results. With Sparky in the pet cemetery (it’s ok, just temporarily) Victor’s grief is lightened only by a demonstration by science teacher Mr Rzykruski involving a deceased frog and an electric current. In a town notable for its nightly storms, Victor undertakes a daring experiment that leads not only to the reanimation of his beloved dog but to the creation by his rivals of a flock of outsize sea monkeys, a giant tortoise and a were-bat, rampaging through the Dutch Day Fair. Who will save the town and its terrified inhabitants!?
With Frankenweenie Tim Burton gives the teenies a taste of vintage horror with additional references to Gremlins, Jurassic Park, echoes of The Fly and Dr Fu Man Chu, plus actual footage of Christopher Lee as Dracula. Burton subversively has Bram Stoker’s hero Van Helsing here appearing as the villain, and challenges conventional notions of what constitutes normality. Burton daringly introduces a little quantum physics as Mr Rzykruski identifies the emotions of the researcher as a parameter in an experiment.
There is a happy ending as the townspeople are moved to embrace the weird that is wonderful. The little ones in the audience tottered out looking rather stunned but satisfied and were engaged by the story throughout.
Martin Landau provides a lushly slavic voice for Dr Rzykruski from a country where remarkably ‘Efri worn is a Scientist!’ Winona Ryder is convincing as the worryingly depressed and oppressed girl next door and Martin Short agilely seesaws between normal dad, Mr Frankenstein, and abnormal mayor, Burgemeister. Young Atticus Shaffer is creepy as Edgar ‘E’ Gore and James Hiroyuki Liao sinister as Toshiaki, classmates of Bob Frankenstein sympathetically voiced by Robert Capron (Diary of a Wimpy Kid).
I would have appreciated some colour once the retro statement had been made and did wonder what became of the subject of the second experiment but beyond that the experience was worth the ticket price of the entertainment on a cold wet Sunday afternoon.
Will this tale cause an outbreak of children endeavouring to revive their dear departed pets? Frankenweenie will, at least, lead to some interesting discussions with enquiring minds about the nature of consciousness, the boundaries between life and death, right and wrong, the reassuringly normal and the world-saving weird.
Chartreuse is a freelance writer, editor, photographer and promotional videographer. She has written a feel-better film review column for Heath & Happiness Magazine, and is the owner of Heypressto. Chartreuse’ greatest inspiration is Abraham-Hicks. Her favourite quote is ‘You can be, do or have anything you want’.
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