Sunday, 14 October 2012

Review: Frankenweenie

Rating: PG
Duration: 87 mins  

There are two types of people in the world: those who loyally adore the works of kooky visionary Tim Burton, and those who detest the life out of the wacky-haired maestro.

The Marmite director returns after the lukewarm reception of his other 2012 film Dark Shadows, as Frankenweenie looks to be somewhat of an anomaly from his safe zone; boasting the possibility of emulating Henry Selick's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Not only that, but there's also no sign of cohorts Johnny Depp or (shockingly) the missus, even though they've featured relentlessly in recent years.

Frankenweenie follows suit with the kooky, quirky nature synonymous with the Sleepy Hollow director. And it's with good reason, because aesthetically the entire set up is beautifully unique and oozes charm, but it takes far more than striking visuals to make a great film (see Corpse Bride).

After loosing his beloved dog Sparky, schoolboy Victor decides to take the initiative from his science class teachings and set up an experiment to reanimate his pooch. As the pair begin to re-bond, the secret resurrection becomes know to fellow pupils, which results in some darkly comic moments, as it elevates to levels of mild horror that's perhaps unsuitable for the little'uns.

Morally, the story attempts to place its ideas on a pedestal, claiming to have a message regarding coping and coming to terms with loss, as well as obvious themes of life and death. However, this entire ethos is dispelled, leaving a warm but unfulfilled aftertaste in its preachings.

The story works on a stripped down, basic level, and only really steps up a notch as it approaches its climax. Certainly quaint in its stylistic manner, it possesses a black and white nostalgic quality that works surprisingly well.

3D is incorporated as a prominent feature, and one must admit that it actually strengthens the film as a whole. Devoid of misconceptions of 'jump out the screen' and instead serves its true purpose of creating a rich, vibrant and pleasing depth of field that adds needed weight to what is a flimsy, filler-heavy script.

But it's not all completely at fault. Carefully woven into the script are numerous nods to classic cinema from (the obvious) Frankenstein to Godzilla, with nuances the more observant viewers will pick up on. Background subtleties feel Aardman-inspired, which likeably generate laughs, but are sadly much too infrequent.

Frankenweenie turns out to be conformist Burton territory after all; it rarely strays from the by the numbers formula. It has a wonderful attention to detail in its design, but with a complete lack of meat in story, wit and entertainment, it falls short when evaluating as a complete package.