Tim Burton has had his fair share of masterful movies, but “Frankenweenie” is not one of them.
The movie introduces us to Victor Frankenstein and his beloved dog, Sparky. Victor and Sparky are inseparable, doing everything from playing catch to filming home-made movies. However, Victor’s parents, mostly his dad, believe that he should get out more often and make friends.
When Victor comes home, begging his father to let him enter the science fair, his dad agrees but only with a promise from Victor that he will play baseball. Appeasing his father’s wishes, Victor gives baseball his best shot and succeeds by blasting a sure double into the leftfield gap. The ball rolls into the street and Sparky chases it down, but on his attempt to return to the field he is struck by a car and killed.
Victor is devastated, but quickly finds a solution through an experiment in his science class with electricity. This is where the movie starts to lose my interest.
The movie is an obvious copy of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” but the amount of material copied from other movies just basically made this a cut-and-paste job.
Victor is able to bring his dog back to life, bolts and all, but this is not the only animal who is brought back to life.
The other children in Victor’s class come to know of Sparky’s revival through the big mouth of Edgar, Victor’s hunched-backed classmate. Jealous of Victor’s genuis and the clear advantage it gives him in the science fair leads the children to revive their own lost pets in their own fashion.
One student travels to the town pet cemetery, or as Mary Lambert would say “Pet Sematary,” and brings back his pet turtle, while another student brings to life a batch of sea-monkeys. The turtle, whose revival includes Miracle-Gro, comes to life resembling and wreaking havoc like Godzilla. The sea-monkeys spawn out of a pool and run around like the monkeys in “Jumanji” or the monsters in “Gremlins.”
While all these creations are attacking the town, the Mayor runs into a Porta-John and feels the ground shake, bringing back memories of “Jurassic Park.”
The movie ends with the burning of a wind mill, classic Frankenstein, and Sparky, a.k.a. Frankenweenie, saving the day by rescuing Victor from the fire; the dog is later found by firemen, dead once again. Yet again though, Victor is able to bring the dog back to life.
There is no moral of letting go and no message of moving on, which made me wonder why I even watched this movie at all.
There’s plenty of reasons why Burton fans, especially the more mature ones, would expect much more from “Frankenweenie” than the obvious PG construction. The animation does harken back to “Nightmare Before Christmas,” but at its core “Frankenweenie” seems more like the Halloween version of “Bolt.”
That isn’t to say there’s nothing entertaining to find from the movie, you might just be disappointed in what that entertainment actually is.
There’s no doubt that Burton fans are patiently waiting for another “Nightmare,” but whether they’ll actually get it is a great question. After all, Burton may like his paychecks from Disney a lot more than taking the risk to try top the cult status he achieved with “Nightmare’s” timeless originality.
If you’re in the mood for a movie that requires no thought or reward from Burton, please go ahead and see “Frankenweenie.” If not, please get in line for “Looper” instead.