Reviews: Frankenweenie

A Fantastic Build Up To.... Nothing (Spoiler alert)

My family just saw this movie today, and we all agreed that it had a great beginning with a good build up, but it fell flat in the middle. It starts with Victor Frankenstein, (the mad scientist from Mary Shelly's famous novel)a genius who makes movies with his dog Sparky. But then the dog gets ran over by a car. The death of the dog was handled well, especially for a kid's movie, and I admit I cried for a large part of the grieving scenes.

Then Victor's weird science teacher gives him an idea on how to bring Sparky back to life with lightning. At first it doesn't seem to work, but then Sparky's tail wags and he is living again! Other children find out about the dog coming back to life, and try to bring more pets to life as their science fair projects (this is where the movie started going downhill.) The results are... just what you've seen in the commercials.

What annoyed me most was that the plot split up into too many new plots, which didn't go anywhere and didn't serve a purpose to the main plot.

And this is a small thing, but what was up with that cat-poop joke? They showed numerous different cat feces in the flash backs.

The ending was good but predictable. Even my six-year-old brother knew Sparky was going to come back to life. Too obvious.


This film makes compares well to Young Frankenstein, because it's essentially the opposite. While YF took Frankenstein and turned it into a modern comedy, this film takes a modern comedy and turns it into Frankenstein. And the ways in which it does so is brilliant. There are tons of plot analogues and other in-jokes relating to the classic story and films (and perhaps to YF itself), and the adaptation to modern life gives the juxtapositional comedy a nice mirror to YF. Tons of classic monster movie references (including references to the actors in those movies) join the obvious as well, so it's a lot of fun to look for them.

The animation is skilled and pleasing, but some of the puppets paint themselves into corners by not having very expressive face shapes.

Sparky is the cutest movie dog I've ever seen. Practically every second he was onscreen I felt the urge to Squee!. The character designs, particularly on this movie's Igor, are fantastic as well, though the "normal" characters start to look samey, like with those in Corpse Bride.

There are some flaws. The characters don't feel as fleshed out as they might have been, and their portrayal is a bit too token with some of them—that is, they take Burton's tradition of relatable caricatures and make them a bit too obvious and slightly uncomfortable. I've never asked for something to be less diverse before, but here, that might have been for the best. Another slight problem I saw was that there are parts that I felt were predictable. The ending in particular seems like a bit of a waste, jarring with both the original moral of the story (which is even referenced in this movie) and with some of the more mature, thoughtful writing Burton's used before, as in Edward Scissorhands. I'm not outright objecting to the way the story plays out, but there are points where it might have been deeper and stronger.

The main horror concept is played with, but it's not perfectly explained, in fact, it's even written in to make the rule-less science part of it. While the lightning has undeniably creative effects in certain cases, it doesn't have enough rules to really feel like a functional concept, with some aspects being understood, and others simply brought up once and never becoming relevant.

A couple of other plot points serve to fuel the story before going completely unresolved. The science fair serves as the main force driving the plot, but it ultimately never gets resolved at the end. The inspiring mad teacher also just gets fired with no real reason. He didn't need to be crazy, he didn't need to leave the story. He only exists for an unnecessary moral about science being good, which is completely against the original story.

I think this film is a fun watch and definitely has good ideas, but it's a bit misguided in some of them and needed a bit more polish and maturity. I'll watch it again, but it's not my proudest pleasure.