Fantastic Fest Review: Frankenweenie
Fantastic Fest is an eight-day feast of genre film. Some films are the meat course and others are dessert. The opening-night movie at this year's festival, Frankenweenie, is a flavorful appetizer. With this animated feature, Tim Burton has recaptured the whimsical mojo that he exhibited with his seminal film Beetlejuice.
Frankenweenie is the story of young Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) and his dog Sparky. Early in the film, Sparky is run over by a car, sending Victor into a tailspin. But in science class the next day, his teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau) demonstrates the effect of electricity on a recently deceased frog. Victor is inspired! Armed with a potential solution to return his dog from the grave, Victor concocts his own science project. Victor digs up Sparky, sets up a lab in his home's attic and waits for a lightning storm. His wishes come true -- after receiving a high voltage charge, Sparky is reanimated.
Fans of Tim Burton may already know know that Frankenweenie has a long history in the "Burtonverse." The story was originally shot in 1984 as a live-action short, but never met Burton's original vision. Some three decades later, the filmmaker has returned to the tale and we now get to see what he originally envisioned.
What we see is a personal project created with the help of Burton's extended film family. The voice cast is full of Burton favorites: Catherine O'Hara, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau and Martin Short all voice key roles in the film. Along with this a fine voice cast, the crew is made up of other Burton alumni. The screenwriter is John August, a frequent collaborator of Burton who has scripted Corpse Bride and Big Fish. The other big name attached to this film is the amazing Danny Elfman, who has created yet another masterful score.
Frankenweenie is a fun movie for horror-movie fans of all ages. Well-heeled horror buffs will notice many direct and indirect references to several of the horror greats. Toho, Universal and Hammer are all represented in this homage to great horror films. Younger viewers will find the movie approachable as the setting, characters, and monsters are a combination of both cute and scary. Shot in black and white, you cannot help but feel like a child watching sneaking down to the living room to catch the 1:00 am showing of Dementia 13 on KTLA Channel 5. (I would know, that kid was me).
With a vision that began many years ago, Burton proves that great ideas transcend time. Frankenweenie is a must-see in this fall film season.