Movie List
Loading ...
Find Theaters and Movie Times
Search Movies

Review: Frankenweenie

Shaggy dog story
By PETER KEOUGH  |  October 4, 2012

Death becomes Tim Burton, whose best films feature corpses or the undead. For example, his 30-minute "Frankenweenie" (1984, see sidebar), in which young Victor Frankenstein watches his dog Sparky get flattened by a car. Burton feels the kid's horror, but also shares his morbid curiosity, the kind that makes you want to poke a carcass with a stick. Years later, that fascination remains, and finds full expression in this feature-length animated remake of the original short.

>> READ: "Puppy love: Tim Burton's first Frankenweenie" by Peter Keough <<

Like the first movie, the new film opens with Victor's homemade horror movie, "Monsters from Long Ago," starring Sparky as a stegosaurus. He's a loyal, smart, and talented pooch, but about 10 minutes into Frankenweenie, he's dead. Victor grieves . . . until his science teacher gives him an idea.

Extended to feature length, the premise doesn't thin out but gains substance and momentum. It gives Burton space to extend beyond the relatively normal Frankenstein family to the oddballs in the neighborhood, and he puts together a rogues' gallery worthy of Charles Addams, brought to life by the primordial stop-motion animation, shot in the inky black-and-white of Universal horror movies of the '30s.

Among the standouts in that bunch are Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau of Ed Wood), the science teacher, who looks like Vincent Price and sounds like Bela Lugosi. His lesson on lightning is a tour de force. Then there's the cute hunchbacked boy Edgar "E" Gore (Atticus Shaffer), with a voice somewhere between the cherubic and demonic. But all the kids are great — endearing freaks vaguely reminiscent of every horror movie you've ever seen.

There are quibbles. The animals aren't lovable. Sparky looks like a withered yam and his poodle bride Persephone (shades of Hades) is no Elsa Lanchester. The cat, Mr. Whiskers, with his perpetual look of startled disapproval, steals the few scenes he's in.

As for death, it seems as much a curiosity as a tragedy, something a boy or girl can handle with a bunch of gizmos and a bolt of lightning. Or a movie camera, as Burton demonstrates once again.

Want more movie news? Read Peter Keough's Film blog at


  Topics: Reviews , Tim Burton, car, morbid,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   REVIEW: WHITE ZOMBIE  |  February 12, 2013
    This Kino Classics release is worth it if only for historical purposes, since it demonstrates that from the start zombie films embodied the Marxist paradigm of capitalism (Lugosi) versus labor (zombies).
  •   REVIEW: BEAUTIFUL CREATURES  |  February 11, 2013
    Throughout his adaptation of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's YA novel, Richard Lagravenese drops the names of books that would have provided a more rewarding way of spending a couple of hours than watching this movie.
  •   LAST ACTION HEROES?  |  February 05, 2013
    Maybe it was the moment in The Last Stand when a guy exploded, or the scene when Arnold sawed someone in half with a Vickers machine gun, or maybe it was the 10th brain-splattering bullet to the head in Sylvester Stallone's Bullet to the Head .
  •   REVIEW: SIDE EFFECTS  |  February 08, 2013
    Ironically, the filmmaker who started his career with sex, lies, and videotape , a film boosting female sexuality and empowerment, now ends it with a so-so thriller that resorts to the same old misogyny.
  •   REVIEW: HORS SATAN  |  January 30, 2013
    God works in strange ways, especially when Bruno Dumont directs him. Or is that the devil?

 See all articles by: PETER KEOUGH