Friday, January 18, 2013

DVD Review: Frankenweenie

As I said during the Dark Shadows review, I do like Tim Burton, even with all of his…let’s call them ‘modern issues.” A lot of his modern movies have been pretty bad, but I’ve always been rooting for him to return to the Ed Wood levels of his earlier work. And while Frankenweenie is nowhere near that good, it is quite enjoyable and well made, and is actually probably one of his better movies in a while.

Adapted from a short film Burton did of the same title (but owing a lot more visually to another short film he did called Vincent), the plot is basically what you’d figure from its title. A lonely, isolated, movie obsessed kid’s faithful dog is killed by a car and he, in his grief, uses a familiar faux-science technique to bring his dog back to life. One of his scheming classmates finds out and begins to try and make his own undead animals.

I think what makes this movie work is there aren’t a ton of moving pieces. There’s the plot about hiding the dog, the plot about the scheming classmate and…that’s roughly it. There’s some minor things peeking in around the edges, like a well done sequence about the importance of science, but the movie benefits from an extremely tight focus. It allows the all important characters to feel like real people.

The other thing that helps the movie out is its commitment to its visual theme. None of the characters look anything like a real humans, but the movie is heavily committed to this design. This actually allows the designs on the… well you’ll see, in the third act to feel real.  Some of the character designs are rather impressive, and the animations is incredibly well done. I’ve always been very fond of stop-motion and this is a good example of it.

There are some negative points, mostly in Burton’s issues with structure. The first act is quite abbreviated and the second act seems to move a little quickly towards the end, in an effort to get to the film’s climax. Still, the movie’s script is solid and while it’s a little too much of a hurry to get there, the third act is quite impressive (and contains more than a few movie references that some movie geeks in the audience will appreciate). Overall, the film is imperfect, but it’s certainly an improvement over Burton’s last few. It seems that my theory about getting away from Depp being good for him is accurate. So I guess I can recommend it. I quite enjoyed it, and you probably will too.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and if The Lone Ranger trailers are any indication, the reverse isn’t true for Depp.

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