Frankenweenie ***

Directed by: Tim Burton

Starring:Charlie Tahan, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara

TIM Burton’s latest stop-motion animated featured, Frankenweenie, certificate PG marks a welcome return to form for the director, who in recent years has struggled to deliver with his recent directorial efforts. The animated film sees the director returning to an animated short, he originally produced in 1984, about a young boy grieving the loss of his beloved canine companion.

Ironically at the time, Disney sacked the American for wasting their resources on such projects. 28 years later however, the same studio is behind Burton’s latest project, expanding his short into a full blown animated feature.

Shot in Black and white, the feature has all the trademarks you would expect from Burton, with a dark visual presentation and its fairytale styling’s, a theme so prevalent within the director’s back-catalogue of work. The Stop Motion Animation is executed beautifully.

There’s a strong cast, lending their vocal talents to the feature. Young Charlie Tahan voices young Victor Frankenstein, with Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara voicing his parents. Winona Ryder as Victor’s next door neighbour Elsa. This feature marks the first time since 1990, in Edward Scissorhands that the actress has worked with Burton.

The plot sees young Victor Frankenstein, struggling to come to terms with the death of beloved dog Sparky. Using the monstrous power of science, the young boy manages to bring his pet back to life. But as Victor’s classmates learn of his experiment, things begin to escalate and quickly get out of hand.

The feature is at its strongest when focusing on the story of Victor and Sparky, with some wonderfully touching moments, which hint at a deeply personal relevance to the director. But as Victor’s classmates attempt to recreate their own variations of his experiment, all manner of hell is released upon the small town of New Holland, the feature loses its way, becoming muddled, over the top and silly.

There’s also an obvious comparison with the recently released, ParaNorman. Much like Frankenweenie, it’s an homage to the classic horror movies of the 1950’s, and personally I felt, ParaNorman was much cleverer and funnier than Burton’s effort. Most importantly of all, I felt it would be much more accessible to younger audiences.

Several of the jokes within the film may go over the head of some of the younger viewers. Such as the Frankenstein’s living next door to the Van Helsing’s. There’s also an inventive cameo by Burton regular, Christopher Lee. All this in-jokes within the feature, felt to cater more for adult viewers more so than it’s perceived demographic.

Once again the use of 3D adds nothing to the overall viewing experience. Considering what a visual director Burton is, it’s. Surprise to see his attempts at working with the technology, executed so poorly, much like his 2010 feature Alice in Wonderland, the 3D visuals felt like a post-production after thought.

In recent year’s Burton has struggled to find a sure fire hit at the Box Office, Dark Shadows, released earlier this year, was tonally all over the place and flopped at the Box Office and Alice in Wonderland received largely poor critical response. It’s interesting to see the director returning to his earlier work to find some success.

The feature might be a return to form for the director, but it also felt like a very safe feature for Burton. Working on a project well within the capability of his considerable talent, it will be interesting to see what he does next. Personally I like Burton, when he’s at his most unrestrained, with features like Mars Attacks.

Review By William McClean

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