After his dog is hit by a car, a young boy brings him back to
life through a science experiment and tries to keep him a secret.
Directed by Tim Burton
Written by John August
Starring Charlie Tahan, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short,
Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Atticus Shaffer,
Robert Capron, James Hiroyuki Liao, Tom Kenny
Based on the short film by Tim Burton
and characters by Mary Shelley
Oscar Nominations - Best Animated Film
Frankenweenie is the weakest of Tim Burton's three stop-motion animated films, but it's still entertaining. It has his signature style throughout and it certainly feels very nostalgic for him, which isn't a surprise since it was based on his 1984 short film. I think he intended Frankenweenie to be a celebration of classic horror monsters combined with an idealized childhood longing. The film accomplishes all of this, especially with the character of Sparky the dog. The problems with this film come from the lazily written script and lack of interesting characters. It's almost like they spent so much time trying to get the look right that they forgot about the story.
Frankenweenie is a story about a young boy named Victor Frankenstein (a little on the nose, but I digress) who loses his best friend when his dog Sparky is hit by a car. Victor decided to use his affinity for science to reanimate Sparky and get his friend back from the dead. Perfectly good set-up and interesting reimagining of Mary Shelley's classic story. Things get murky after the resurrection. There's a reason this worked as a short film. Once the dog comes back, there's nowhere else to go. A good chunk of the movie is keeping Sparky hidden and Victor's friends trying to reanimate their own pets. For some reason, the exact same process turns their pets into monsters. I get that this film is intended for kids, but that shouldn't mean things don't have to make sense.
I just wasn't sold on this one. I was bored most of the time and I never felt attached to any of the characters. I get the feeling that this was one of Tim Burton's passion projects that he just wanted to get made, regardless of any loose ends. It's beautifully animated and Danny Elfman's score is fitting as usual, but there's little story to get sucked into and in the end, nobody learns anything. The film is built up to be a lesson for kids about moving on after losing a loved one. But if the dog keeps coming back, nobody learns that lesson, now do they?