Monday, October 22, 2012
In his latest animated feature Tim Burton tells a very personal story. Unlike most young boys growing up in suburban New Holland, Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) forgoes sports. He prefers instead to make 8mm films in the back yard or to conduct science experiments in the attic. His constant companion in these endeavors is his irrepressible dog and best friend, Sparky. Concerned about their introverted son, Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein (Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara) persuade a reluctant Victor to join the school baseball team. During a game Sparky gets struck by a car while chasing a ball that Victor hit. Lonely and guilt-ridden the bereft boy digs up his beloved dog and resurrects him during a lightning storm. Victor tries to hide Sparky in the attic, but the impetuous fellow escapes the house and wreaks havoc in the neighborhood. Weird classmate Edgar “E” Gore (Atticus Shaffer) confronts Victor about his experiment and enlists him as his partner in the school science fair competition. But Edgar can’t keep a secret from the other competitors, and soon everyone is attempting to reanimate dead pets and other creatures. Before you can say “It’s alive!” chaos reigns in sleepy New Holland, and only Victor and Sparky can save the town. Based on Burton’s 1984 live-action short film, the screenplay by John August spends less time with the Frankenstein family and adds a cadre of eccentric, multi-ethnic classmates. This gives Burton the opportunity to pay myriad homages to the James Whales’ FRANKENSTEIN pictures and other classic and not-so-classic monster movies, such as GODZILLA, THE MUMMY and GREMLINS, to name a few. Rather than being weighed down by this overstuffed collection of film references, Burton’s film is buoyed by movie love and real affection for his characters. The voice work is solid, with a particularly amusing cameo by Martin Landau as the voice of science teacher Mr. Rzykruski. Parents should note that the film does have a few mildly scary moments. And the death of Sparky could upset children with beloved pet dogs.