Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images and action.
Starring (voices of) Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Winona Ryder, Robert Capron, Conchata Ferrell, James Hiroyuki Liao, Tom Kenny.
Written by John August, Tim Burton and Leonard Ripps.
Directed by Tim Burton.
Ah, Tim Burton. He's a creature of habit (or perhaps "creature" suits him fine), and he just can't help from shooting a single frame of film without making sure every element has his personal stamp on it. You start off with a weird/macabre story, slap a Danny Elfman soundtrack on it, use familiar actors, and...BOOM, you've got a Tim Burton movie. This week, Burton returns to his roots in a stop-motion animated re-make of a short live-action film he made 28 years ago: Frankenweenie (in fact, the 1984 Frankenweenie version was the last minor project for Burton before his big budget directorial debut of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure).
The story begins as a strange boy (well, everybody is strange in the town of New Holland) named Victor Frankenstein. Victor has a keen interest in film making and science (autobiography, perhaps?) along with a great love of his dog Sparky.
When Sparky is killed after being run over by a car, Victor sinks into a depression until he finds inspiration from his teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau), who introduces him to the idea of re-animation. Slipping past his parents (Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara), Victor is able to dig Sparky up from the local pet cemetery, sneak several household appliances into his attic lab, and with the help of a convenient thunder storm, he re-animates Sparky.
Victor tries to keep Sparky's resurrection a secret, but some of his creepy classmates soon catch wind of his successful experiment and plan to exploit similar methods to bring some of their own pets back to life and perhaps win the school science fair. Their versions of re-animation have some serious and perhaps deadly consequences, as Victor and Sparky must rush to save the day and set things right.
Frankenweenie is vintage Burton in every sense. It has all the aforementioned "Timmy trademarks," right down to a voice cast that includes Beetlejuice alums Catherine O'Hara and Winona Ryder.
The good news is, even though you recognize all those "Burton-esque" elements, Frankenweenie is full of charm and humor that children and parents will enjoy. Some of the story goes into places you wish Burton would explore a little more, but overall, Frankenweenie is a good film, and certainly on par with other Burton animated features like The Nightmare before Christmas.