Movie Review: Frankenweenie
Have you ever lost something or someone that you care deeply about? Victor Frankenstein, a quiet, thin, and clever young inventor has only one true friend – his beloved dog, Sparky. Together, Victor and Sparky have many adventures, such as making a movie together, building inventions in Victor’s secret lab in the attic, and playing fetch in the yard. Victor’s parents are a bit concerned for him, since he has no friends besides Sparky. But, Victor has no interest in befriending the children in his neighborhood. The kids there are Edgar, a nosy hunchback who can never keep a secret, Nassor, a dark, skeptical, and competitive bully, and a weird, unnamed girl who never blinks and rambles on about omens of the future found in her cat’s excrement, among others.
Only one person besides Victor’s parents cares at all about him – his neighbor and the Mayor’s niece, Elsa van Helsing. Her poodle, Persephone and Sparky seem to have an electrifying attraction. But, one day, Sparky suddenly gets run over by a car while chasing a ball, and Victor is heartbroken. Persephone is miserable too, and Elsa is the only person who actually empathizes with Victor. Having lost his only friend, Victor doesn’t have the heart to do anything he used to, until he hears a lesson in science by Mr. Rzykruski, the new brilliant but misunderstood science teacher ( who looks like a cross between Salvador Dali and Vincent Price with a horse-like face), about how the muscles of a dead frog still react to electricity. Victor devises a plan that would change his life forever and bring back his one true friend. But the students have their own plans – plans of winning the science fair with Victor’s new-found discovery!
Tim Burton, seen here with a stop-motion puppet, has made several films using the time-intensive style, including The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride and his latest film, Frankenweenie.
I enjoyed this film immensely, and I recommend it to children of all ages. I am so excited that Tim Burton is returning to his original spooky, stop-motion roots with this amazing new movie. I especially enjoyed the visuals, knowing how much effort goes into making a stop-motion film. I think that the black and white color choice adds wonders to the story, focusing more on the incredible, ghostly story instead of having colors, which can often be distracting.
Also, I like the character design, all of which have Tim Burton’s signature stop-motion look, with either very fat or very skinny characters, mostly with perfectly round eyes and tiny pupils. I think that the color scheme was inspired off of the black and white Frankenstein film. The story was so intriguing and humorous. The film is loaded with emotional scenes, action scenes, and funny ones, such as the part where Persephone was shocked by Sparky’s electrical conductor, two locks of her black hair turned white, reminiscent of the bride of Frankenstein! This is an incredible, “Perrific!” film that I give 4 starfish!
Of course, even the greatest films have its weaknesses. One flaw for the film is how Victor’s friend Elsa had never noticed that her dog, Persephone, had two stark curls of white hair! Also, I wonder why the film is called Frankenweenie, when the movie is not about a wiener dog. After all, weenie is the term for dachshunds and other sausage-shaped dogs and not really a general term for all canines. I think that the name of Victor Frankenstein is unoriginal – taken straight out of the 1930s film. Also, Victor would have been overwhelmed by the smell of rotting dog flesh, as would his parents, but I give Victor the benefit of the doubt that he may have sterilized Sparky’s wounds.
Finally, in the film and the trailers, Sparky’s ears and tail fall off due to his sheer excitement. I am puzzled by the fact that even though Sparky could feel the scratches and bites of a vampire cat as well as Victor’s petting, but not when his body parts tear off. I guess Tim was thinking in terms of little clay puppets, instead of what should have been real people and animals.
I really enjoy Tim Burton’s works, such as his films – like Edward Scissorhands, and Alice in Wonderland, and his twisted sense of humor. I remember being at the LACMA in October 2011, looking at Tim’s artwork and marveling at his skill in various mediums and his sometimes grotesque humor – especially in one work of art labeled, “Seeing Eye Dogs”, depicting a person with two dogs in her eye sockets!
I discovered some cool background information about Burton’s new film. Frankenweenie was a live action short film that Tim created 30 years ago! He offered it to Disney, but was turned down, since the company thought that it was too strange. How ironic it is that 30 years later, they asked him to make this into a feature film! Now, I realized that the film contains a moral that its director experienced himself – you can only achieve what your heart believes. Burton at first worked for Disney, but found it excruciating and torturous to keep his own visions to himself, while drawing cute little bunnies and foxes (not really his specialty). Also, Tim had a mutt when he was young that died as well, so this is probably his most personal film yet.
Moral: People fear what they don’t understand.
Even death cannot break the bond between two friends.
You can only achieve what your heart believes.
Copyright 2012 by Perry S. Chen
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About Perry Chen:
Perry S. Chen is an 12-year-old award-winning child film critic, artist, animator, TEDx speaker, and entertainment personality, currently in 7th grade from San Diego. He started reviewing movies at age 8 in 3rd grade using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, and has been featured in CBS, NPR, NBC, CNN, CCTV (China Central Television), Variety, Animation Magazine, The Young Icons, The Guardian, The China Press, etc. He was a presenter at the 2010 Annie Awards for Animation, and has written movie reviews for Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine, and his own Perry’s Previews blog.
Perry is currently writing, animating, and directing his most personal film to date, “Changyou’s Journey,” produced by his mom Dr. Zhu Shen, about his beloved father Dr. Changyou Chen, a cancer researcher who passed away in July 2012 from terminal cancer after a long, brave battle, please watch trailer and donate to support Perry’s animation film: