Tim Burton's animated reinvention of Mary Shelley's classic horror story about the perils of playing God
Tim Burton makes his return to stop motion to resurrect (re-animate?) an idea that he first aired as a short live-action film for Disney in 1984. When young inventor Victor Frankenstein's beloved dog Sparky is run over and killed, the grieving boy is inspired by an eccentric science teacher to dig up his deceased pet's body and bring him back to life. But is he prepared for the consequences?
The black-and-white animation is, quite simply, some of the most exquisitely-crafted and technically impressive ever seen. Burton's stylistic leanings seen previously in The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride (big heads, skinny limbs) suit the macabre material perfectly, and the suburban gothic theme provides an unusual mirror to the James Whale classics the film homages so lovingly.
There are some wonderful touches, too - Martin Landau's Vincent Price-lookalike teacher brings gravitas and has all of the best lines, the fatal accident is a masterpiece of set-up and execution, while the supremely sinister 'Mr. Whiskers' completely steals the show.
The film's huge heart is never in doubt - the love between Sparky and Victor is genuine and moving. But there just aren't quite enough strong ideas, memorable moments or laughs to sustain its extended running time. It also suffers from a bit of an identity crisis - is it trying to be classic or modern? Horror or comedy? As such, Frankenweenie ends up much like Sparky himself - a loveable, but none-too-bright, assortment of bits.
Beautiful, technically astonishing animation and the emotional whack of a lightning bolt cannot quite hide the stitches holding together a paucity of ideas and humour.