Tim Burton returns to his film-making roots with the new stop motion animated flick Frankenweenie. Opening the 56th BFI London Film Festival, this passionate feature-length adaptation of one of the director’s short films (now a cult classic) is certainly one of the auteur’s better efforts in recent times.
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Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) is obsessed with science and his dog, Sparky. When an unexpected car accident results in Sparky’s demise, a heartbroken Victor – inspired by his science teacher Mr Rzykruski (Martin Landau) – devises an ingenious way to bring his pet back to life. It’s not long until the secret is out, and with the school science fair looming and first prize up for grabs, Victor’s peers seek to imitate his experiment, with mixed results.
The narrative is far from original, with Burton himself having already treaded similar ground, but it plays out pleasantly enough. Frankenweenie‘s simplicity allows it to focus on the relationship between Victor and his beloved dog, and you don’t have to be a pet lover to empathize. The potential pitfalls of stretching a 30 minute short into a feature-length movie are almost exposed during a stuttering second act, but a robust (if overly ‘Hollywood’) finale ensures that the film recovers well.
The connection between Victor and Sparky is certainly sweet, but the supporting characters are far more fun to watch. Landau is frequently entertaining as the eccentric yet wise Mr Rzykruski, but Catherine O’Hara is the standout as a young ‘psychic’ credited only as the ‘weird girl’. The numerous nods to the many horror films that have preceded Frankenweenie (the most obvious of which is of course Frankenstein) will also please fans of the genre.
The animation is vintage Burton, with all the exceptionally exaggerated characters (they’re either incredibly skinny or extremely obese) rendered in an impressive amount of detail. It should be noted that some of the imagery will not be suitable for small children, particularly when certain pets undergo ‘transformations’. Additionally, although animation and 3D are often a good mix, the format doesn’t lend itself to Burton’s black and white world.
“Any Last Words?” Frankenweenie is not an especially memorable animated flick. However, there are just enough brilliant moments to make this an enjoyable watch, particularly if you are a horror fan.
Frankenweenie opens in UK cinemas on Wednesday 17th October. Check out the trailer below.
The 56th BFI London Film Festival is running from now until October 21. Book tickets here: http://www.bfi.org.uk/lff