What We Liked:smooth animation
What We Disliked:lacks invention or consideration of audience
It’s just not clear who Frankenweenie is supposed to be for. It isn’t mature enough to be a family film, but isn’t energetic and sweet enough for a children’s film either.
Frankenweenie isn’t bad, it’s just routine. It’s a routine “creepy children’s movie” from a routine director. Tim Burton is no doubt an auteur, his film are distinct, but not distinct from each other. Once you’ve seen one Burton film, you’ve seen them all. Case in point, Frankenweenie. If you’ve seen Corpse Bride, you’ve already seen Frankenweenie‘s character design. Burton returns to a familiar setup—a strange character disrupting the world around him—abut forgets what makes the formula work this time around.
The Story: Victor Frankenstein doesn’t play with the other children. He prefers to make home movies, dressing up his dog Sparky like Godzilla. The two are best of friends, till the day Sparky is hit by a car.
Victor is devastated by the loss, but perks up when his science teacher shows the class how an electrical current can animate the corpse of a deceased frog. Fascinated, Victor runs his own experiment, and brings Sparky back to life. Victor keeps his success from his parents, but a hunchbacked neighborhood kid named E. Gore is on to him, and wants Victor to share his secret with him.
Frankenweenie doesn’t create its own world like director Tim Burton’s own Corpse Bride or Nightmare Before Christmas, missing their expressionist backgrounds, but imitates a typical 50’s suburban look instead. Given how weird the characters look—all widely spaced eyes and narrow jaws—the yip-yap zombie dog doesn’t seem as strange and disruptive as it should; imagine if everyone looked like a variation of Edward Scissorhands. Not so strange now, is he?
It’s just not clear who Frankenweenie is supposed to be for. It pays homage to 50’s monster movies, watering down their scariness past PG-13 and down to the kid friendly PG level, but the juvenile target audience won’t catch the references. It isn’t overstuffed and frenetic like Hotel Transylvania, coming closer to ParaNorman in pacing, but lacks its vitality and wit. It isn’t mature enough to be a family film, but isn’t energetic and sweet enough for a children’s film either. Kids love bright colors, but Frankenweenie is shot in black-and-white. That’s fine for an adult audience, but how are kids going to respond to this dreary, weird looking thing? It’s as if Burton made a typical Burton film, melancholy, bizarre, and whimsical, solely for himself.