Bring the Kids! Tim Burton Is Always Great
FRANKENWEENIE (2012/IN THEATERS) It hasn’t been the greatest year ever for Tim Burton—though it offered clever sets and Johnny Depp, “Dark Shadows” was a box office disappointment this past summer and I gather that the same is true for his adorable B&W stop-motion animated tribute to Frankenstein, released this month just in time for Halloween viewing. That’s too bad because Frankenweenie is classic Tim Burton—and I think he must have had so much fun making it. The plot is simple and wonderfully familiar. Young Victor Frankenstein lives in New Holland, a suburban 1960s setting reminiscent of the one used in Edward Scissorhands (and how perfect that Victor’s neighbor Elsa is voiced by Winona Ryder!). New Holland is even complete with a windmill and the town is preparing to celebrate “Dutch Days.” Perfect. It’s also known for its unusual number of lightning strikes—we know where that’s going for sure. Young Victor is a budding scientist but of course a loner, whose best friend is his dog Sparky. Victor’s loving mom and dad are completely supportive of his experiments in the attic but they do want him to improve his social life and encourage him to take part in baseball. Sparky, enthusiastically chasing a ball, is hit by a car and killed. Inspired by his science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (perfectly voiced by Martin Landau using his “Ed Wood” Bela Lugosi accent), Victor undertakes to harness lightning and re-awaken his beloved dog. Of course the experiment works but Victor’s jealous classmates soon take advantage of his success and unexpected results create another tribute by movie’s end—this time to Godzilla. Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara supply many of the other voices in the film, including Victor’s dad and his gym teacher. The whole production is short and sweet, finishing in 90 minutes flat. In the showing I attended this week, there were lots of kids in the audience, some quite young, and I wondered how Burton’s choice of B&W and his sophisticated art and animation would work for them. Here’s the answer: they loved the movie! One young man couldn’t contain himself and kept yelling to the screen—Sparky! Go Sparky! To which I say, go Tim Burton!