Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Charlie Tahan, Martin Short
Artists may be the most determined when it comes to unfinished situations. Tim Burton made a short film back in 1984 called Frankenweenie that starred Shelly Duvall and Daniel Stern about a young boy that brings his dead pet back to life. Disney fired Burton for crafting something way too scary for kids back in 84’ and now in a bit of irony that same studio fronted this stop motion feature length retelling of the original story. Burton has obviously kept this story close to his heart and he finally answered his need to properly tell the tale in this film.
The story is pretty simple actually; a young boy named Victor Frankenstein finds a way to bring his dead dog back to life. Things go haywire when he starts helping other neighborhood kids reanimate their own pets. This herein lays the core problem with the film, there just isn’t enough story to make the film interesting. There is a heartwarming story of a boy and his dog at the center of the proceedings that’s successful but much of the plot around that story is poorly paced and honestly a lot flat. The whole thing is particularly uninteresting if you’ve been watching Burton’s films throughout his career because this one seems to be stagnant as far as evolution goes. What we get here is more style over substance, the same thing we’ve been getting with few exceptions since his last great film Big Fish.
That’s not to say that some of what’s on screen isn’t pretty because it most assuredly is. The problem is it’s somewhat predictable. At some points the film almost feels like a stop motion version of Edward Scissorhands. I guess if that were purposeful and I were more taken with the story that the world building would have been cool. On the plus side all of the nods to classic horror films are fun with my favorite being a scene with Victor’s parents watching an old Dracula Hammer film on TV. Martin Short does an admirable job carrying multiple characters throughout the film and crafting some fairly humorous albeit brief moments.
The film could have been good. There is potential there. The oddly cute and creepy scenes are a fun combo, sort of like chilies and chocolate. You don’t think it will work but it does. The problem is that Burton focused so much time on these moments and the overall art direction of the film he forgot to make the story as engaging as it needed to be. Also, I think his decision to do the film in black and white really hurt it as far as getting mainstream audiences to see it. Now, if Frankenweenie were a small “pet” project I’d respect the decision to do it the way you want but this is a big budget film. The black and white of course does play perfectly with his riffs on old school horror but with that said Hammer films of the 60’s features some beautiful hyper vivid color too.
Frankenweenie’s biggest tragedy is that it could have been good and some parts make it worth a rent for Burton fans but it’s just not as good as it should have been.
This film gets solid treatment from the mouse house with a spectacular transfer in both 2D and 3D. The stop motion animation is crisp with great contrast even in 3D. Black levels are solid throughout the film and the 3D is a great deal of fun that actually works well in the home theater environment. There are really only a few scenes where Burton plays with the pop out sort of 3D of old instead going for more depth of environment throughout most of the film. I’m going against my normal reaction to 3D and saying that this film would have been perfect for tons of those pop out moments because it would have been great to reference the old school original 3D horror movies that had those same riffs. It worked great lately with My Bloody Valentine and Fright Night.
This is truly a perfect presentation and one of the best theater to home 3D transfers yet.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track here is also pretty great with a really clean mix and deep surround. The sub-woofer rocks too with the high energy scenes leaving quitter moments to light ambient sounds. If there’s one complaint it would be that the more atmospheric moments are almost a little too subtle compared to the rest of the film. The score does fill the room too making the excitning scenes have even more punch. Again, the presentation here is near perfect.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The combo pack features a 3D blu-ray, a 2D blu-ray, a DVD, and a digital copy. You may be thrown when you first open the package because you’ll only see two discs. The reason is that the two spindles are slightly tall er on each side of the slim case so that two discs can be stacked on each side. As long as they don’t damage each other in the long run this may be a smarer packaging option than the often breakable hinged option that’s commonplace. The artwork is taken from the poster and doesn’t really feel as special as it probably should.
There are several featurettes here including footage from a tour executed that featured the props and puppets from the film, there’s a music video, a 3D short film made by Victor and his dog, a short making of the film documentary, and of course the original live action short film. Honestly the extras feel pretty light here. A feature length documentary might have been more interesting than the actual film. Also, where is the director commentary?
Frankenweenie may resonate with some that love the burton eye for art but the overall film just feels incomplete. The 3D offers some fun at home as it probably did in the theater too and some of the voice acting is pretty great. It’s far from burton’s best work but hardcore fans may find enough to love.
Overall (Not an Average) 6.5/10
The Movie 5/10
The Video 10/10
The Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6.5/10