Directed by Tim Burton
With wonderful animation, surprising emotional resonance, fun characters, and packed with clever references, Frankenweenie is one of the most entertaining, fulfilling movies I've had the pleasure of watching for some time.
I have not enjoyed a Tim Burton film this much since Ed Wood -- a hard act to follow, considering it's my favorite movie of all-time. Instead of doing his usual routine of casting Depp and Carter, and giving the film a glitzy, colorful pallet, Burton instead took complete control and let the movie emulate that which we haven't seen from him in quite some time: passion for his art. This feels very much like a personal project; one rejuvenates my interest in his future work -- something I could not see myself saying after his pathetic 'Dark Shadows' just earlier this year.
The voice cast, which features relatively few of Burton's regulars, is effective. Many of the characters fill necessary roles, and with voices heavily influenced by characters and actors from '30s horror films, the stereotypical nature of these characters fill can hardly be frowned upon, but rather viewed as homage. With names ripped from the pages of classic horror, including naming the main character Victor Frankenstein and his neighbors the Van Helsing family. Obvious? Yes, but I still enjoyed it. The casting of Martin Landau, who played the part of Bela Lugosi in 'Ed Wood', was an especially entertaining addition, and not the kind of inside joke I would expect most viewers to understand or appreciate as much as I did.
Anyone who has read my previous reviews on clay-mation films should know that, as a form of animation, I am nothing if not a fan of the style. That, paired with the wonderful-looking black & white, makes this one of the most distinct and visually pleasing films I've seen all year. Not only was the animation well-done, but I found it incredibly well-suited to the story, and can't imagine it being executed as well had it been done any other way. The original live-action Frankenweenie short may have been charming, but doesn't hold a candle to this.
The first film Burton has written, produced, and directed since Edward Scissorhands, a further reminder that he needs to take complete control over his work more often if he wants to achieve great results again in the future. Riddled with references (some blatant and some subtle) to classic horror movies, ranging from, obviously, Frankenstein and The Bride Of Frankenstein, to Dracula, The Mummy, and others from this same era. Though there were a few missed opportunities for potentially great in-jokes, Burton still managed to blend enough hilarious references in with new material to make this a completely fresh experience.
Seeing Burton back at the top of his game is truly a wonderful experience for me. Having directed, as previously mentioned, my all-time favorite movie, I know he has the potential to make something truly wonderful. I found myself genuinely caring for the characters, rooting for a happy ending, and laughing along the way. Can you really ask for anything more?