"FRANKENWEENIE" — ★★★1/2 — Voices of Charlie Tahan, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara; PG (thematic elements, scary images and action); in general release
I want a dog like Sparky.
Even though dead, recently dug up from the pet cemetery, all patched together, little bolts protruding from his neck and just zapped by lightning, his first moments of reanimation find this little, loyal canine wagging his tail and licking the hand of his master.
Who couldn't love this dog?
The new, full-length film "Frankenweenie" is director Tim Burton's second go at this tale. Back in 1984, he produced a 29-minute version that included the voices of Shelly Duvall and Daniel Stern.
The 2012 version is 87 minutes long and includes an impressive cast of voice talent, including Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara as Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein, Martin Landau as the Vincent Price-like science teacher and Winona Ryder as Elsa Van Helsing. And Atticus Shaffer steals the show, giving voice to Edgar E. Gore.
The magic in this film is the reflection of famous monster movie characters and familiar horror movie scenes all in a "normal" suburbia setting. Students at the local school who have the likeness, mannerisms and speech patterns of everyone from Igor to the Frankenstein monster make the story fun for everyone, but I wonder how much of this will be lost on younger moviegoers.
The story unfolds around the death of little Victor Frankenstein's dog, Sparky. Meanwhile, the kids in the neighborhood are focused on winning the science fair, especially in light of the inspirational teachings of their weird science teacher.
Victor decides to apply his science knowledge to bringing Sparky back to life. But when the very strange kid I mentioned earlier, Edgar E. Gore, discovers Sparky has come back to life, he lets the cat out of the bag and very bizarre things begin to happen to the idyllic little town of New Holland.
This is vintage Tim Burton. It's dark and stylized, but also wonderfully crafted to honor past monster movies with a — well — almost sweet humor.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie.
"Frankenweenie" is rated PG for thematic elements, scary images and action; running time: 87 minutes.