Review: “Frankenweenie” is Tim Burton’s finest since the ’90s, perfectly combining quirkiness with tributes to classic horror

in Disney, Movies, Reviews

Burton is back. After a series of widely successful Hollywood films that seemed to stray from his unique style, director Tim Burton has reached deep into his inner insanity to produce what’s not only his best film in well over a decade, but quite possibly the best motion picture of 2012. “Frankenweenie” is, frankly, electrifying, capturing a certain spark that will instantly grab the attention of all his fans from the moment Walt Disney Studios’ castle logo turns black and white with a flash of lightning, never relenting until the closing credits. General audiences may miss the nuances of this stop motion tour de force, particularly its many references to classic horror films, but the spirit and enthusiasm Burton brings to the big screen with this project is unmistakably infectious.

“Frankenweenie” quite literally had me smiling ear to ear during every frame of its gorgeous animation, which by the way looks stunningly real and rather immersive in 3D, a perfect use of the technology, uniquely and appropriately displayed in black and white, considering its subject matter. In its simplest definition, this film is a retelling of the classic “Frankenstein” story, even so much as to give its main character Victor that very same last name. But this time Victor is not a mad scientist, but rather a young boy, in the rather bizarre town of New Holland, who loses his beloved dog Sparky and through some helpful classroom encouragement finds a way to bring him back to his life – by bringing him back to life. Despite centering around the undead, this film is surprisingly endearing, with emotions ranging from sheer joy, to utter disappointment and sadness, to elated excitement, and a whole lot of awkwardness. But what else would you expect from a movie featuring a character simply called “Weird Girl”?

There is much history to be appreciated in Tim Burton’s latest big screen endeavor, stemming both from his own personal passions and style as well as decades of important films. “Frankenweenie” began decades ago during Burton’s initial tenure as a Disney animator. As a break from his animation, he produced this very story as a live action short film, which has been seen and appreciated throughout the years (though was not initially backed by Disney). But Burton was never satisfied with that version of his tale, longing to fully flesh out the idea some day. With the aid of Disney veteran and friend Don Hahn executive producing the film, Burton could finalize realize this dream, following in a similar formula that produced the wildly popular movie, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” But instead of a musical, “Frankenweenie” draws inspiration from nearly a century of horror films, paying homage to classics like “Dracula,” “The Mummy,” and “Creature From the Black Lagoon,” and featuring a seemingly unlimited number of hilarious references, some more subtle than others. The scene where Victor raises Sparky from the dead is utterly mind-blowing.

Back in July, I spoke with Hahn about the creation of the film and why now was the right time for Burton to finally make it the way he wanted it:

Video: “Frankenweenie” Executive Producer Don Hahn talks about the film at San Diego Comic-Con 2012

“Frankenweenie” is nothing short of a delight for any Tim Burton fan who has been longing for the return of the vision that brought forth films like “Edward Scissorhands” and “Beetlejuice.” This latest film follows directly in that style, with the town of New Holland even strongly resembling that which once was home to those famously ornate lawn sculptures. But “Frankenweenie” still feels fresh, each of its characters playing an important and unique role to the story, while remaining independently interesting. Weird Girl is sure to be a favorite, but even more so her cat Mr. Whiskers, who produces several laugh-out-loud and quite a few surprising moments.

But every character is vital to the film’s success, with voice actors contributing to multiple roles featuring “Beetlejuice” stars Catherine O’Hara and Wynona Ryder along with Burton newcomer Martin Short and a pair of perfectly talented children voicing the film’s lead roles of Victor and Edgar. Even the animals of the film, of which there are many, are expectedly voiced by the amazing Dee Bradley Baker and Frank Welker.

Down to the vintage horror style posters, there is nothing short of perfection with “Frankenweenie.” While those who aren’t as big fans of ’90s Burton movies and classic Universal monsters may not get quite as much enjoyment out of the movie as I did, anyone who likes either or both of those styles should be ready for a shockingly good time.

“Frankenweenie” rises into theaters on October 5, 2012 and should definitely be seen in 3-D.


  1. Dr Duck

    Sounds like a great film. I missed the preview screening for it here, so look forward to seeing it in a full theater on Friday. It’ll be nice to see Burton back. I have missed him, as of late.

  2. Vicky

    I love Tim Burton’s early movies and I’m really happy to see this one is getting great reviews. A few of my officemates at DISH are bringing their kids to go see it and invited my family but that many kids at a movie theatre sounds like a nightmare so I’m going to wait. I put Frankenweenie in my Blockbuster @Home queue so I can watch it at home with my family when it comes out. That way it will be mailed to me when the DVD is released and I can just send it back when I’m done. I know it will be after Halloween but the dog is so cute and my kids will still enjoy it. I can’t wait to watch it!

  3. Claen

    I think this movie was made just for you, Ricky. 😀

    1. Ricky Brigante

      I have to agree!

  4. Mitchell

    Sorry, Ricky. I kinda gonna have to disagree with you.
    It was not that good for me. I though Tim Burton had finally made something I wanted to watch, but I did not fully enjoy this movie, especially when all the pets turn into monsters and attack the city. That was just plain stupid.
    I’m surprised this movie didn’t get a higher rating. And it should have. My younger sister loves dogs and dog movies and she wanted to see this so badly. I know it’ll be way too scary for her.
    It has a PG rating, but something tells me it should get a PG-13 for scariness. But maybe that would be too high.
    Whatever. This is just simply not a kids movie. I don’t get scared of this stuff, becuase I’m 15. But I hope parents won’t bring their kids to this thinking it’s a cute little movie just simply about a boy and his dog

    1. Ricky Brigante

      I don’t think anyone is going into this film thinking it’s a cute little movie or simply about a boy and his dog. And the part you refer to as “just plain stupid” is one of the biggest reasons many people love this film. It’s just crazy enough. And definitely scary at times.


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