Monday, January 21, 2013

Frankenweenie

By Sati. Monday, January 21, 2013 , , , , , , , , ,
I remember the day my beloved hamster died. It was terrible - he was my first pet, well, excluding the fishes in aquarium, and though I couldn't walk him and I almost never let him out of his cage, I really loved him. I cried for days. Now I have a beautiful Yorkie, my first dog ever. He is one year old,  I've known him for 10 months and I love him so much - he wiggles his tail and jumps whenever I get back home, he wakes me up in the morning and he brings toys and drops them next to me when he wants to play. He is my friend.

When I heard about the premise of Tim Burton's latest stop motion animation Frankenweenie, I knew I will cry. There are not many things in life that are worse than losing your friend, losing your beloved pet, and that's exactly the premise of the movie. The film follows Victor, boy who doesn't really have any human friends - he kinda likes the neighbor girl, but he keeps to himself. But he has one true friend in his life - his beloved dog, Sparky. Sparky follows Victor everywhere and spends all his time with him, clearly loving and caring about his owner.
One tragic day, during baseball game, Victor hits the ball with the bat and the ball falls on the street. Sparky wants to bring the ball back to his friend. When he is running back...the car hits him and Sparky dies. Victor is devastated. Then one day, his science teacher shows the class the power of electricity - he is able to animate the corpse of a frog, by hooking it up to electric source. Victor, science whizz, gets an idea. He dags Sparky up, he repeats the process his teacher showed and then...a miracle happens. Sparky is alive again!

Victor and his friend are reunited - but he needs to hide Sparky from others. It's not that easy since Sparky is in love with the poodle next door - Persephone. She belongs to Elsa Van Helsing, one of the few people who don't ridicule Victor. Another problem is the science project the class was assigned to - one of the creepy kids from Victor's school - Edgar - finds out about Victor bringing Sparky back and blackmails him into showing him how he did that.
Frankenweenie is a remake of Tim Burton's own short film of the same title, which was made and released 28 years ago. It is also the first good movie Burton made since, what? Sweeney Todd? Tim Burton never screwed up stop-motion movie so I was suspecting that this may be good. Especially since with the story like that, with so much heart in it, even if the director loses his way, it will still be all right in the end. While the film is far from perfect, it is all you would like to see in Tim Burton's movie - old Burton, I mean.

Memorable place that the action takes place in? Check! The setting of the film brought back the memories of Edward Scissorhands - it's like the exact same town, with white picket fences, roses and adorable houses. Movie references to classic films? Check! The basic premise is obviously a big homage to Frankenstein. There is also one incredibly cute reference to The Bride of Frankenstein, when Persephone touches the bolt on Sparky's body and gets electrocuted - causing her to get the iconic hairdo known from the movie.
In fact there are tons of those little nods in this movie - every single horror fan out there - and by "horror" I mean the old school, artistic and genuinely beautiful horror film classics - will have so much fun noticing all of those great little references, visual similarities and good-natured, loving spoofs. All of that is accompanied by Burton's favorite composer Danny Elfman, who delivers his best work in years in this movie - cute, a little spooky and memorable - just like the film itself.

What about quirky characters? Check. We have all of those eccentric folks here and the one that definitely stands out is Weird Girl - freaky, loony blond chick who has these intense eyes and this wacky way of talking. She also has a cat - Mr. Whiskers - and they both bring a lot of classic Burton humour to the film - adorable, weird and hilarious moments. She was definitely my favorite character here, though I deeply related to Victor, since he has such a strong bond with his dog and loves him so much.
Unfortunately, not everything works equally effectively here - while everything we see is really quite clever and adorable, some parts just aren't as interesting as another. In the latter part of the movie, Frankenweenie switches from the tale of friendship to a huge stop-motion homage to old monster flicks. While all the references we see there are quite fun, I'd much rather see more of Sparky and Victor and Sparky's romance with Persephone - this is definitely one the cutest love stories I've seen all year.

In fact, the only reason why I wasn't bored out of my mind during this last sequences was because I cared so much for Sparky and I didn't want him to get hurt. Whenever he was hurt or in danger during this movie, I mentally collapsed. When he died and Victor was mourning him, I wept continuously until he was revived. The film definitely can make you cry - especially when you are clearly unstable like me - but I think it is guaranteed small children will be very sad and upset when some things happen. Also I can honestly say this is too intense and scary for little ones to see. I think parents should avoid showing this one to their children, especially if they lost their pet recently. Playing with electricity is even more dangerous than playing with matches.
The fact the movie slows down so much in the latter half and especially in the scenes with "villains" - Victor's ignorant class mates - is pretty much the only problem I had with the movie, but since it was under 90 minutes long the fact I was bored is a pretty huge deal. On the other hand, the finale of the movie is fantastic - it's filled with excitement and anticipation and I kept hoping that Sparky and Victor will be all right and they both get the girls. The very last moments are so lovely and heartwarming I cried again. My make up was completely gone by the end of this movie.

While this year's Brave had an amazing animation, the technique used in Frankenweenie is mind blowing. I always admired the stop-motion technique. It's just incredible to me that this bunch of people who made this movie made those puppets and kept moving them inch by inch to create movement, paying attention to the tiniest details, creating entire sets and thinking about each little thing in the frame. The amount of love, thought and care put into that process is astounding. And the way it looks like on the screen is just beautiful.
Sparky's movements are especially realistic. He does all the things real dogs do - scratching himself behind the ear, standing on two paws and begging for food when the family is having dinner, sniffing everything around him. Though Sparky looks so grotesque, you never forget that this is the man's best friend. I really loved the little touch of adding few stitches after he is brought back to life and Sparky being shocked when he looks into mirror. Another brilliant reference.

The voice work delivered in the film is fantastic and everyone is doing great job. I think the film benefited greatly from Tim Burton not using Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter indeed. Some things mix together brilliantly, but if it happens over and over again, something delicious can turn into something that will make you vomit and have diarrhea. Instead, Burton reunited with few folks from Beetle Juice and used goddess herself - Winona Ryder, who provides voice for Elsa.

Frankenweenie is not a masterpiece, but I think I'd rank it even above Corpse Bride. It's no Nightmare Before Christmas, but comparing to Burton's latest films it's amazing. Hell, comparing to Dark Shadows this one is a masterpiece of gigantic proportions.
Frankenweenie (2012, 87 min)
Plot: When young Victor's pet dog Sparky is hit by a car, Victor decides to bring him back to life the only way he knows how. But when the bolt-necked "monster" wreaks havoc and terror in the hearts of Victor's neighbors, he has to convince them that despite his appearance, Sparky's still the good loyal friend he's always been.
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Leonard Ripps (based on a screenplay by), Tim Burton (based on an original idea by)
Stars: Charlie, Tahan, Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short

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28 comments:

  1. I'm afraid I'll cry when I watch this too. When my dog died after I had him for nearly 15 years, I was a wreck. I'm still sad on his birthday every year.

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    1. I'm so sorry, that must have been awful! I can only imagine - pets are so wonderful and love us unconditionally.

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  2. Love the Gif's you used. I really enjoyed this one. While it did appear they stretched out the plot a bit, as you said the original was a short, I still had fun watching this one with my boy.

    Also agree this is the first good Burton film I have seen in sometime. I am still trying to forget about Dark Shadows.

    I think that original short is available for streaming on youtube if anyone wants to check that out

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    1. Thanks! Dark Shadows was one of the worst movies I've seen last year :/

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  3. Lovely review :)

    This was probably my favourite animated film of last year, I thought it was excellent. However, I did have an issue with the ending. I thought it dodged quite an important message and was a bit of a cop out, truth be told. Still thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing though, the animation is just amazing!

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    1. Thank you!

      It's my favorite animated movie of 2012 too, but I only saw Brave from the genre, so it's not a big competition :)

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  4. "The film definitely can make you cry - especially when you are clearly unstable like me" Welll, at least you're self aware, Sati. ;) :D

    Definitely nailed this review. I thought it lost steam when it turned into an action movie in the third act, too. But it might have saved face if they had let Sparky go at the end. I think Tim copped out on a chance to make the film more meaningful, by not wanting anyone to be sad. :(

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    1. You try studying law for 5 years - you'll get a little bat shit crazy too :)

      Thank you! Yeah, it was a noticeable step down in quality. Oh God, if Sparky died for good I'd still be crying about it now.

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  5. Good review! Nice to see you enjoyed it, I had a feeling you would. I, personally, wasn't that enamoured with it, but I get the hype. Did you see ParaNorman? that was better, at least for me it was

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    1. Thank you! I haven't had a chance yet, but I will definitely see it after I hopefully pass my exams next week :)

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  6. :D No thank you, five years of accounting was bad enough.

    Meanwhile, SEE though? That would have been BETTER! You'd still be thinking about it after seeing it! :D

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    1. Yeah, it would make me depressed weeks after seeing it :)

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  7. ParaNorman is my favorite animated film of 2012, then Wreck-It Ralph, but this was a nice return to form for Tim Burton - one of the best animated films of the year!!

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    1. Definitely, great to see good film from him for a change!

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  8. I lost my beloved Pekingese dog Floppy in Jr High so I think I'll definitely cry watching this. I'll be renting this for sure, Sati. Great review and pics, as always!

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    1. Sorry to hear that! :( I think every single dog owner and people who love pets in general will relate a lot to this movie, it's done with so much heart and though it's not perfect this is the movie that moved me most in 2012.

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    2. I think if a film's emotional core resonates with you, you're willing to 'forgive' its flaws. I'll be renting this for sure, Sati.

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    3. Awesome, I hope you'll like it and hopefully it won't make you too sad. The ending is lovely!

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  9. I'll watch anything with a dog haha. Nice review, I had some flaws with it, mainly with some of the characters. I'm a little sad how underused Winona Ryder was.

    Sparky was so cute!

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    1. Yeah Winona should really come back full time - she is one of my favorites and deserves to be in a lot of good movies and as a leading lady!

      He sure was! :)

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  10. Great review! I didn't like the film, but I'm glad it connected with you personally. And I agree on the animation, which is gorgeous. I'd love for Burton to finally win an Oscar, even if I'm not a fan of this film.

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    1. Thank you! I think he may have a shot, though I only saw 2 animated contenders :)

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  11. Very cool review. Beautifully done as usual.

    I have a quick question for you, though. Do you think this flick is too heavy for a little guy? My son is really interested in seeing this after eating copious amounts of Frankenweenie themed pistachios of all things.

    I always want to support his curiosity, but not the hugest fan of scarring him for life.

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    1. Thank you!

      Well, I think there are some scary elements, there is this creature that is kinda like a bat, I think this may be quite creepy.

      Also the context of the movie - it's really sad if your kid ever lost a pet or even has a pet, not that I think the kids will understand after the movie that they will lose their pets one day, but who knows. I used to watch animated movies a lot in the cinema when I was younger and I remember kids crying when animals died on screen and they do that a lot in this one.

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  12. I wound up not seeing any animated films in 2012 outside of Arriety. A shame considering all of the worthy nominees.

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    1. This one is worth checking out! :)

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  13. Nice review. I'm not really a fan of Burton's work but I'll definitely try to check this one out.

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    1. Thank you! It's worth watching for sure!

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