Voice cast includes Charlie Tahan, Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara

Directed by Tim Burton

Written by John August


It is slightly ironic that 30 years after Disney allegedly fired then fledgling animator Tim Burton for wasting their money making his (somewhat) macabre short movie Frankenweenie that the studio would hire the iconoclastic director to flesh out the concept in stop-motion and at feature-length. But Burton’s legacy of creativity and profit (he returned to the Mouse House to direct Alice in Wonderland) means that the professional oddball can pretty much do what he wants, with or without Johnny Depp.

The idea is the same: awkward young Victor Frankenstein (Tahan) inadvertently causes the death of his beloved pooch Sparky. But when he learns from his science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau) that electricity can cause dead muscles to twitch, Victor extrapolates and uses an electrical storm to spark Sparky back to life. Given that this is a play on Mary Shelly’s novel and, more directly, James Whale’s film, the pitchfork-wielding locals are not far behind.

The original Frankenweenie short was live-action and fun, but Burton’s fully-realized version is, of course, superior, with more monsters, furrier kittens, and a more animated Sparky.

Three decades have also honed Burton’s visual and stylistic palette, and while I have heard some parents complain that fellow stop-motion frightfest ParaNorman was a bit too scary for their terrified tykes, Frankenweenie’s gentler treatment of its subject matter should prove mild enough to engage a new generation of monster kids.

Rating: 4/5

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