Tim Burton has become a renowned name in the film industry for his early works, such as Edward Scissorhands. This portion of his career successfully conveyed the quirkiness that worked so well in his movies. However, he's been unable to create a worthy motion picture for quite some time. After releasing disasters, such as Alice in Wonderland, it was hard to tell if Burton's creative touch would ever be seen again. Fast forward a couple years, Tim Burton is releasing Frankenweenie, which is based off of his short film by the same name. That magical cinematic experience seen through the early years of Tim Burton's career isn't entirely present in Frankenweenie, although it's the best movie he's released in years.
Young Victor (Charlie Tahan) has a growing interest in the scientific field. His father, Mr. Frankenstein (Martin Short), becomes worried when he realizes that his son doesn't have any friends other than his dog, Sparky. One unfortunate day, Sparky is killed in a tragic car accident. Young Victor becomes determined to bring his best friend back to life through an electrical experiment. As Victor attempts to keep his revived dog hidden, everything begins to spin out of Victor's control. Some of his classmates discover his secret experiment, although not everybody plans to use it for good.
The plot begins by following in the footsteps of Burton's original short, but then it trails off into new territory. One of the great successes of Frankenweenie is the relationship between Victor and Sparky. Almost everybody has been attached to a pet at some point in their lifetime, and audiences will be able to relate to the genuine relationship between a young boy and his dog. Even though this is perceived to be a children's film, adults and kids will be able to find something to enjoy here. Those who are fans of the original monster classics are sure to be fond of the numerous references made to this style of filmmaking, while younger viewers will be sure to like the humor and the quirky characters that Tim Burton has been known to deliver in his past films. While the jokes aren't always a hit, the majority of the humor is primarily directed towards younger audiences. More mature audiences may smile or chuckle, but may not be able to appreciate the comedic aspects of this film as much as kids will.
The sequences in the Frankenstein household are good, as the interactions between Victor and his family feel real, making us even more engaged in Victor. The film begins to lose some of its momentum towards its third act when Victor's secret begins to get out. The continuous nods to classic movie monsters are enjoyable, but the narrative gets ahead of itself. This section of the film feels rushed in order to achieve its 87-minute running time. It's disappointing that we aren't given more time to connect with the characters outside of the first act of the movie. Some of the supporting characters, such as Elsa Van Helsing and Edgar 'E' Gore, aren't used to their full potential. Despite its flaws, there's a sweet message underneath it all. This is a pro-science feature that presents the concept of death in a very appropriate and tasteful fashion for its younger viewers, yet it manages to be authentic for adults.
The stylistic decision to make Frankenweenie in black-and-white works perfectly. Since this feature is referencing the classic monster movies, it makes sense to deliver a similar presentation. The atmosphere successfully combines these monster films along with Tim Burton's creative touch. As far as the characters go, each puppet looks great. Their movements are clean and fluid, for the most part. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the 3D presentation. There isn't very much depth and it adds little to the moviegoing experience. Since the film is in black-and-white, you don't need to worry about the 3D glasses ruining the colors, but it still doesn't warrant paying the extra few dollars.
Overall, Tim Burton has delivered a solid re-imagining of his original short film. While it isn't perfect, Frankenweenie is a big step in the right direction. Burton fans are sure to be excited about him returning back to his roots and inspirations. The references to the monster classics will keep adults smiling, and the humor will have children laughing. While the first two portions of this film are good, it's hard to ignore the issues found within the third act. There are some great characters here, but the supporting roles don't have much of a chance to shine. Even with its flaws, Frankenweenie is much better than what this filmmaker has been delivering lately. Whether or not you're a Tim Burton fan, this is worth checking out with the family. Recommended.