There are very few mainstream directors who compare to Tim Burton in terms of revolutionizing genres. Since the 80s, he’s created some of the most imaginative cinematic worlds, be it with adapting material already bizarre enough, or creating his own universes. There have always been stories and even films with a comedy-horror premise, but very few have been as prominently nuanced as Tim Burton’s work. You’re crept by his characters, but at the same time, you find that very fact hilarious. He’s pioneered the genre to such an extent, even with films that are kind of below his standard. From classics like Beetlejuice to his more recent animated adventures like Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie.
Frankenweenie for one is a film where this horror-comedy combination is utilized to its fullest. It’s certainly not among the very best Burton films, but it’s a quintessential example of how he revolutionizes genres.
How to Stream or Download Frankenweenie
To stream or to download Frankenweenie, click on the Download button that is located below this review. Then choose a digital store you prefer. And if you like Tim Burton movies, check out also our reviews of Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Alice in Wonderland (2010), Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016), and Dumbo (2019).
The Movie Review
It’s loosely based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, with the protagonist Victor Frankenstein now wanting to revive his dead pet dog Sparky. Besides his parents, he’s the only thing he has, and he values him from the core of his heart. He’s acknowledged for his intellect and inventiveness in his school by many, but he barely chooses to interact with any of them, preferring to spend time with Sparky instead.
Among his prominent acquaintances is his next-door neighbor Elsa Van Helsing, the suspicious character Edgar E. Gore, the narcissistic Toshiaki, the highly agreeable Bob, the as-creepy-as-this-movie Nassor, and a girl literally called Weird Girl, whose nickname alone does the talking. Victor is obsessed with science to the point of barely socializing, which encourages his father to suggest some participation in sports to him. Surprisingly, Victor takes up the suggestion and participates in Baseball, where he excels to the point of accidentally causing his beloved pet’s death.
On the other end, his teacher Mr. Rzykruski, who’s experimenting with electricity and dead frogs, brings some hope back to Victor. In all of a sudden, the solution of revival is revealed to be so simple. Victor digs Sparky’s grave, brings his corpse, and strikes him with a giant bolt of lightning.
The revival is initially seen as a major scientific achievement that garners Victor with a good deal of positive attention, but soon enough, this results in a series of unfortunate events, be it scary or emotional. Victor’s world turns upside down as a consequence of his own actions, with some of the weirdest twists following the revival. It’s much more the reaction of everyone else to the revived Sparky than Sparky himself that’s eerie.
The film could’ve been equally likable even if it was live-action due to how realistically satirized its society is.
John August’s writing for the film is absolutely admirable. It adds all the right kind of dialogue for the nature of the film and creates a greatly paced film. It’s far from being perfect, but Burton’s vision is full of authenticity, even though the premise takes a lot from Frankenstein.
Burton still remains one of the greatest devisers of the freakiest genre combinations. His characters are almost always full of depth and have quite a unique identity. A great aspect of Frankenweenie is the way it normalizes unconventionality and makes conventionality seem scary, which is honestly quite a reflection of the real world.
Peter Sorg’s cinematography makes it so beautiful to look at, with Danny Elfman’s original score once again complimenting a Tim Burton film greatly. This film makes you feel much more for a ghostly dog than many films do for humans in the worst probable predicaments.
The Bottom Line
Frankenweenie is not among the highest tier of animated films, but it’s certainly among the finest ones released in the last decade. It’s not ultimately original, but the way it experiments with the two genres is very creative. Just like most of Tim Burton’s films, be prepared to find yourselves sympathizing with the weirdest and the most unconventional characters ever written.