Tim Burton’s return to stop motion animation is a terrific success. I am overjoyed to say that Frankenweenie is an endearing, beautifully made, genuinely intelligent little film that will charm both children and adults. It’s made with such love and care and dedication to detail, watching it is like falling into a wondrous and macabre, fantasy world – a world where pets can predict the future and dogs can be brought back to life via lightning.
The film builds up a loving tapestry of references to cinema, including Universal Horrors of the 1930s (James Whale’s Frankenstein is a clear inspiration), Jurassic Park, David Cronenberg and British Hammer movies. There is even a clip of a Hammer Dracula film, where Christopher Lee walks menacingly into view on a fuzzy TV screen.
The story concerns a schoolboy, Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) who is interested in both cinema and science, inspired by his eccentric teacher (the brilliant Martin Landau). When Victor’s dog is hit by a car and dies, he attempts to bring its corpse to life using electricity. It works, but the boy’s talent doesn’t remain a secret for long, and quickly turns his life into something of a living nightmare.
With a cascade of other superb voice talents, including Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short, Burton stitches together a work which never bores and always intrigues. The story does get a little baggy and untamed towards the end, but the strong characterisation keeps it together, and a surprising conclusion lodges the film in your mind long after seeing it.
Finally, I must salute the great Danny Elfman for his superb score for the film. He is a long-time collaborator with Burton, and with Frankenweenie he delivers a sumptuous and atmospheric soundtrack that’s full of the optimism of childhood and the melancholy of loss. Listen to it, download it, cherish it.
Frankenweenie (2012), directed by Tim Burton, is distributed in the UK by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Certificate PG. It is released in cinemas on October 17.