Saturday, October 6, 2012

Frankenweenie [2012]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-I)  Roger Ebert (3 Stars) Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

Frankenweenie (directed by Tim Burton, screenplay by John August, help with the story by Leonard Ripps based on Tim Burton's very first stop motion animated short film which carried the same name) is a stop motion animated film, marvelously filmed "for effect" in black and white (honestly, who;d think of making an animated film in black and white anymore? ;-) which tells the story of Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) a somewhat nerdy kid living in a small town/subdivision somewhere in the United States today.

Victor prefers to tool around with gadgets in the attic of his family's house and playing with their dog, Sparky, to anything else while lovely parents, Mr and Mrs Frankenstein (voiced by Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara) and here especially dad, Mr. Frankenstein, would prefer that he go outside and play some sports.

So Victor goes out for baseball.  At his first game he shows potential, hitting a ball for a very, very long home run.  Tragically however, Sparky, who's used to "playing catch" with Victor runs out to get the ball.  He gets to it before any of the opposing team's players can reach it, but as he trots back to return the ball to Victor, he gets hit by a car.  So Victor, who actually could have become a pretty good baseball player, tragically finds that the game/sport killed his favorite friend in the world, his pet dog Sparky.

The next scene shows a very sad Victor along with his almost as sad and certainly guilt ridden parents burying Sparky in the town's pet cemetery.  What now?  Victor's best friend is dead and Victor will probably not play baseball for a very long, long time...

Well Victor being something "somewhat nerdy," is enrolled in his school's "advanced science class," a class that is filled with some _really nerdy_ and, honestly, _very creepy-looking_ kids, especially hunch-backed Edgar"E" Gore (voiced by Atticus Schaffer).  The teacher is a wild-eyed/crazed mad-scientist-looking _immigrant_ with a Polish name, Mr. Rzykruski (voiced by Martin Landau).  He keeps telling the kids that "this country does not produce enough scientists so it has to _import_ them" (which actually is true, but seriously, Mr Rzykruski is one scary looking dude ...

It turns out that one of the demonstrations that Mr. Rzykruski shows the kids is that he could make a dead frog's limbs move by running electricity through it.  Well, Victor, seeing dead frogs limbs stretch and contract as Mr. Rzykruski sends and then stops an electrical current through its body, gets an idea...

That afternoon, he collects all kinds of random electrical gadgets from around the house and takes them to the attic.  Then at night he goes out to the pet cemetery and digs up sparky's casket.  He connects the dead body of Sparky to all the gadgets that he collected from around the house.  Then for good measure, and with a thunderstorm arriving, he sends up several balloons and kites into the sky each tethered with electrical wires which connects to ... Sparky.  Finally a lightning strikes the kites and sends a frightening surge of electricity through the the wires into Sparky's body, and ... the rest of the movie follows ;-)

I did think the film was a very cute retelling of the Frankenstein story.  I'm not sure that I particularly liked Mr. Rzykruski being so obviously portrayed as first "a foreigner" and then as "a Slav" (Polish at that).  But then the Frankenstein legend written in WASPish England always played-up Frankenstein's German accent/ "foreign mannerisms" in the past.  So this could be a more current adaptation of the same idea.  Similarly, the "ignorant/fearful villagers" of the original Frankenstein story became the _small thinking_ "Hey, don't have your dog run through my petunias," anti-science "neighbors" of Victor (Frankenstein)'s subdivision ;-).   And then there's the portrayal of the really creepy looking "nerds" of Mr. Rzykruski's sceince class ...

Anyway, the film's both cute and somewhat disturbing.  But then it was intended to be a kinda scary story for little kids.  So IMHO, I'm giving it a pass and I do think it works, and works well!  Good job Mr. Burton!

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