Burton’s attempt to revive ‘Frankenweenie’ fails

On October 12, 2012, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

Stylish design and talented voice-over artists can’t quite save ‘Frankenweenie,’ now playing at the Somerville Theatre. – Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises

Review by Maria A. Cortes

What comes to mind when you hear about a new movie by Tim Burton? It must be something dark, and twisted, and with Johnny Depp in it. Without the latter, but – undoubtedly dark and twisted – again, as many other Burton’s movies, Frankenweenie was released to the judgment of the youngest Somerville residents last Friday at the Somerville Theatre.

Victor (Charlie Tahan) is a young boy, who lives with his parents in a quiet neighborhood of New Holland. He is profoundly interested in science and spends all the time alone experimenting and making short movies. His only friend is his beloved dog, Sparky. Trying to help Victor to find some friends, his father (Martin Short) suggests that Victor plays baseball with his classmates. The very first game ends up tragically: Sparky is struck by a car. Victor is heart-broken. Using his scientific knowledge, he attempts to bring Sparky back to life and…succeeds! But, would Victor’s life be the same when the neighbors find out that Sparky is brought back from the dead?

Tim Burton isn’t afraid of a challenge. Two years of scrupulous work with over two hundred puppets used resulted in a black-and-white horror comedy that is also the first stop-motion film made in 3-D. Sounds impressive. The question is: Was it worth it? On the one hand, the puppets are truly incredible! Wide-eyed, strangely disproportional, and fragile, they are Burton’s reply to a modern age computer animation. Sparky, Victor’s beloved pet, would make everyone fall in love with him at the first waggle of his tail. On the other hand, it feels that we really are spoiled by Pixar’s grand masterpieces. Burton’s black-and-white film seems boring, in slow motion, odd, and the puppets are simply creepy.

Neither vivid editing, nor Victor’s tender attachment to Sparky (that would definitely cause some tears by the end), can revitalize Frankenweenie. It would appear that Burton, who always paid a substantial attention to the visual part of creating a movie, over-focused himself on it in his latest works. Just as in DarkShadows earlier this year, the no-intrigue story in Frankenweenie drags itself so slowly that the audience can easily take several big yawns in between of the notable moments.

Kids were happy to chew on their popcorn, were laughing at the moments when adults would not, and got very emotional “when the doggy died” at the premiere showing. But, as the credits rolled, the boy at the last row whispered to his mom in an expected-a bit-more tone: “It was OK.” If you are a parent, take your kid to see Frankenweenie and make it a nice start of a Halloween season. If you are a Burton’s fan you’ll like it anyway. But, if you appreciate a good story, look somewhere else.

Frankenweenie: directed by Tim Burton. With the voices of: Charlie Tahan, Catherine O’Hara, Wynona Rider, Martin Short, and Christopher Lee. Rated PG. Shows at the Somerville Theater (55 Davis Sq, Somerville, MA 02144). For information about tickets, please visit somervilletheatreonline.com.



2 Responses to “Burton’s attempt to revive ‘Frankenweenie’ fails”

  1. John says:


    I am by no means a Tim Burton fan, but you completely missed the mark on this review. I will give credit to the kid you mentioned in the second to last paragraph as saying that it was okay, because I wouldn’t expect a young kid to get all the homage being paid to the old horror flicks of the 1950s and 1960s. If you are anywhere in the age where you might remember the old black and white films then this movie is for you.

    If you aren’t old enough you will miss the references to Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Joan Crawford, and Peter Lorre. My wife and I recapped for our kids Godzilla, “no more wire hangers”, and the creature from the black lagoon. I don’t usually call Tim Burton a genius but in this film he was. I suggest you go back and rewatch this for the pure enjoyment of it and not as a critic. It was a great film.

  2. Maria says:


    Thank you for your comment! At least, now I know that my reviews are being read:) However, I would like to express my point of view on what you said.

    I may not be old enough, but I do love movies and have watched lots of them. And if I chose to omit the fact that ‘Frankenweenie’ was an homage to the old horror flicks with all the references that pointed to that (including the obvious ones to Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenshein, Corpse Bride, Night before Christmas, Godzilla, and, I would say, all the Burton’s films in general, although they are not all horror movies), I did that for a reason. And that reason is that I did not see any clear point of him doing that. If I decide to make a movie and put tons of references to the movies I love into it – this alone won’t make me a genius. But if I choose those references carefully and make them serve my idea – that would make a difference. I simply did not get that feeling when I watched ‘Frankenweenie’. And to conclude my words, I’lI quote The New York Times’ reporter who said, “But while “Frankenweenie” is fun, it is not nearly strange or original enough to join the undead, monstrous ranks of the classics it adores” (A.O. Scott, 2012).

    I definitely see your point though and totally respect the readers’ feedback and point of view.

    But still, I’m with the boy at the last row.

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