It is not likely to win an Oscar, although it is wonderful that it was nominated. It deserved it.
Rating: Can be seen anywhere (I saw it at home), but is likely to scare the living crap out of any sensitive child under the age of 8.
Though I don’t think it will win this year’s Oscar in the animated film category, Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie is a wonderful recreation of the Frankenstein theme. Additionally, it will remind adults of why the death of a cherished pet is so agonizing, and children over the age of 8 will love the whole bizarre, foolish story.
Victor Frankenstein is a young kid playing Little League who loves his pet dog, Sparky. Devoted to science in all of its forms, he even makes home movies starring Sparky in a recreation of a futuristic, sci-fi adventure. In return, Sparky is his dedicated pal, and the two of them are joined at the hip.
However, tragedy occurs at a ball game where Victor follows his new science teacher’s advice and hits a towering home run. Sparky, a legendary ball chaser, bolts into the street, and disaster follows. His death is, as expected, crushing for the little kid, and it reminded me of an old friend’s criticism of evolution, “How could we have evolved to the point where we outlive our pets?”
Most of you already know what happens next, namely young Frankenstein recreating his teacher’s demonstration where he induced a dead frog’s legs to move by applying electricity. In a scene out of the original Frankenstein film (1931), he emotionally removes Sparky’s body from the cemetery and is able to bring him back to life in the same way that Boris Karloff was reincarnated many decades ago.
What follows are adventures for the multi-stitched Sparky that bring the entire town into chaos. Other kids learn Victor’s secrets, and attempt to apply them to their own experiments to win a science contest. Monsters are created, lives are threatened, and poor Sparky’s second go-around is again left dangling in thin air.
I should note that Monica and I lost our two little dogs, Stella and Betty, during the past two years. Stella was 17 and Betty was 16, and they were adorable Maltese dogs. To have Betty die in our arms as she was put to sleep following a ruptured trachea was a moment that reduced me to a worse state than young Victor in Frankenweenie.
Frankenweenie hits a small political chord that is very relevant to today’s society. The school’s new science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (cleverly voiced by Martin Landau), is literally run out of his job by adults who, despite the fact he was loved by the kids, distrusted his style. He warned Victor with words that many opponents of global climate change should hear today, “While people love the answers provided by scientists, many hate the questions.”
Director Tim Burton is a creative genius. All of his films, which usually center around Johnny Depp and his wife, Helena Bonham Carter, are artistic fantasies that go where no other directors dare tread. The devoted little Sparky is a animal to treasure both on and off the screen, and the movie is a reminder about how foolish intelligent people can be when they succumb to their fears.