Tim Burton has had his share of "reimaginations" over the years. To date, the director has put his funky spin on Batman, Planet of the Apes, Alice in Wonderland, and plenty of others. However, his latest puts a new twist on one of Burton's earliest projects.
Frankenweenie is based on a live-action short that Burton first created for Disney in 1984. However, the new and lengthier version of the film uses stop-motion animation and the vocal talents of Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Atticus Shaffer, Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short.
It's the story of young Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan), a budding scientist with no real friends. Well, no two-legged ones, that is. His best buddy is his friend Sparky, who sort of looks like the mix between Spuds MacKenzie and a pot-bellied pig. Victor's parents (Short and O'Hara) lovingly push Victor into other endeavors -- ones where he may actually have human contact. During a baseball game, Victor actually hits a home run. That joy quickly turns to sadness, however, after Sparky is killed by a car, all while chasing the ball.
However, Victor is a smart kid, so he soon applies his science fair project to his dearly departed pet and makes him, well... not so departed. Once the word and Victor's secret formula gets out, all of Victor's classmates try to conduct their own experiments -- with mixed results, of course.
This isn't Pet Sematary, people. Frankenweenie is creepy and creative. The backdrop is very reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands, but this flick definitely has a bit of a Gremlins vibe to it. It's not for all ages, but it's certainly a fun, pleasant surprise.
Want to resurrect another look at this movie? Read Beth McCabe's theatrical review of Frankenweenie.
Shot entirely in black and white, Frankenweenie is gorgeous, with a great contrast. The detail is also really impressive, most notably in the grass, in some of the characters' hairstyles, in Mr. Whiskers' fur, and in all of those deep, undead-looking eyes. Even in the film's darkest spots of the cemetary, the image is sharp and you'll never miss one speck of imagery. As far as the 3D effects are concerned, Frankenweenie's pop-outs are limited to a few fondue forks, a splatter of sparks and a couple of other moments. However, it has absolutely stunning depth throughout, so you feel like you're walking amongst these animated creatures. It's a winner in both 2D and 3D.
The audio is a nice complement to this release's image. Disney went all out and gave this release a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, which it uses to its full advantage. The dialogue is always crisp, but there are a ton of ambient sounds to give your surrounds a real workout. Expect the school bell, thunder and rain to completely fill the soundfield, but there is plenty of great directionality, as well as a ton of creepy, creaky sound effects. Also, it's nice to see Tim Burton snag Danny Elfman for another wonderfully appropriate, very bold soundtrack.
While it may be hard to get past the premise and Tim Burton's spotty track record, Frankenweenie is a real winner. It's a creepy, cool story that may even tug at your heartstrings a little. The icing on the cake is this stellar Blu-ray release. I'd recommend getting the 3D for a little extra depth, but it's a really fun, funky experience in any dimension.
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