Only in Tim Burton's bizarre world would you find a Dutch town called New Holland, complete with a giant windmill and Hollywood style sign featuring its name. In this topsy-turvy setting for Burton's latest film "Frankenweenie," all the children aspire to academic greatness in the hope of winning the school science fair. Either that or they just want to play god. It's hard to tell.
At the center of this animated tale is Victor Frankenstein, an introspective boy who spends his days shooting monster movies with his dog Sparky and tinkering with gizmos. Victor's parents (Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara) are concerned about his lack of friends, but not Victor. He's content just to have his canine pal. However tragedy befalls him one day when Sparky is accidentally killed.
After a brief period of mourning, Victor uses his scientific aptitude and the town's convenient abundance of lightning storms to raise his fallen comrade from the dead. Although Victor is content to have his companion back, trouble quickly ensues once his peers discover the success of his experiment. Hoping to win top prize at the school science fair, his classmates attempt to replicate his methods and unleash a group of monsters upon the town. Victor must somehow save the day and convince the townspeople that unlike the other undead creatures, Sparky is still man's best friend.
"Frankenweenie” isn’t Tim Burton’s finest movie by any means; however it’s not his worst either. The film is a very average animated tale geared toward kids. There are no serious consequences for the misbehavior of children and no major lessons other than to stay true to oneself.
All of the characters in the flick are obvious stereotypes: tall, skinny, fat, foreign, old, and creepy. These pigeonholes are meant to evoke a lot of humor, although they really just come off as cliché. The one good thing about the characters is that they’re all unapologetic about who they are. They don’t really care about what others think about their personalities and appearance.
When it comes to voice acting, accents really come and go which is annoying, but less so once you realize those are the voices done by child actors. The most entertaining personalities are crafted by Burton alums: Catherine O'Hara and Winona Ryder from “Beetlejuice” as well as Martin Landau from “Ed Wood.”
There are two redeeming aspects to this film: a fluffy triangular-mouthed cat named Mr. Whiskers and the gorgeous style of animation. For some reason you can't help laughing every time Mr. Whiskers is on screen, even though he doesn't actually do much. Burton’s methods of animation also lend themselves nicely to 3D. All the textures presented in the movie are impressive; things like grass and hair have surprising depth. Certain dissolves really pop in 3D as well.
Burton clearly labors to give this film a B monster movie look in homage to old cinema, something he’s quite successful in doing. Aesthetic qualities aside however, "Frankenweenie" could use a stronger plot and more unique characters. Less discerning viewers won’t notice, though their parents will.
My Grade: C+