Tim Burton has turned out another classic, even if it’s a little strange around the edges.
Burton delivers in this loose adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, giving us an entertaining story while also freaking us out a little bit. After young Victor Frankenstein’s dog Sparky dies, he manages to bring him back to life using some tricks from science class. But after word about his experiment gets out, chaos descends on the small town of New Holland.
There are definitely a few moments in the movie that might cause even the most die-hard Burton fans to raise their eyebrows. For instance, one of the characters is a Japanese boy that talks in an accent last seen in propaganda videos and is designed using nearly every stereotype in the book. Sparky’s untimely demise is prophesied by a clairvoyant cat’s morning bowel movements, a plot device that only Burton could dream up. As for the ending, I’ll just say this: Franken-sea monkeys and a windmill (yes, it’s as weird as you think it is).
Still, the movie has all the beloved hallmarks of Burton’s work: a creepy premise, a lot of quirky if (very) strange claymation characters and plenty of dark whimsy. It’s black and white, which lends an old timey quality to the film, alluding to the 1931 version of Shelley’s classic novel. It also references the age of Frankenweenie’s concept: Burton originally created the characters in a short film he made for Disney in 1984. In fact, Burton does not incorporate as much character development as you might expect in a feature film, instead choosing to focus on the original story of Victor and Sparky. While this gives a sweet simplicity to the movie, it can also be less stimulating and unsatisfying for older audience members. The promising relationship between Victor and his classmate neighbor, Elsa, is left unexplored, even though the relationship between their dogs is featured prominently. And while one expects the overarching ‘lesson’ of the movie to be about letting go, the ending is such that we don’t take anything profound away from it at all—unusual for Burton.
Yet perhaps that’s the point: ultimately, Burton just wanted to give us a story about the simple love between a boy and his dog. There are some strange moments and some scary ones, and I wouldn’t recommend taking a very young child to see it. But Tim Burton is still Tim Burton, and if you’re a true fan, this is a movie worth seeing.