“Frankenweenie,”Tim Burton’s newest stop-motion animated film, is a modern retelling of the story of Victor Frankenstein — instead of reanimating human corpses, this film’s Victor focuses his efforts on his ill-fated dog, Sparky.
The movie begins with Victor preparing for a science contest when a strange girl in Victor’s class predicts something big will happen to Victor because her cat has psychic premonitions. That “something big” is, sadly, Sparky’s untimely death. When he sees his science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski, make a dead frog move with electricity, the sullen Victor finds his inspiration, and the rest is set into motion.
The first half of “Frankenweenie” is, frankly, a bit slow and predictable. Despite Victor’s likeability and his adorable dog, their characters fail to develop. The film even approaches heavy-handed territory; Rzykruski confronts the parents of his students menacingly and tells them about the importance of science, warning them of the consequences of reckless experimentation. Perhaps a humorous illustration about the communication gap between the public and scientists, this PSA seems a bit out of place in this movie.
From there, the film surprisingly picks up. “Frankenweenie” starts showing, instead of telling, how science can be used for both good and evil. The film delivers its message while paying homage to several classic horror films. Its secondary characters each take their turn entertaining the audience and ultimately leave us wanting more.
“Frankenweenie” does not meet the expectations set by “The Nightmare Before Christmas” or “Corpse Bride,” Burton’s two previous ventures into stop-motion animation. Maybe it’s the black and white or the lack of musical numbers, but the characters of “Frankenweenie” don’t seem to be as vivid or the stories as satisfying and moving as those of Burton’s previous work. However, “Frankenweenie” is a fun film and a nice non-scary alternative to typical Halloween horror movies.