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FRANKENWEENIE
Four Disc 3D Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Voices: Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Charlie Tahan
Director: Tim Burton
Audio: DTS HD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 87 Minutes
Release Date: January 8, 2013

Something big is going to happen.”

How do you know?”

Because Mr. Whiskers left a message.”

Did you get that out of the litter box?”

Film **1/2

I may be reaching a point in my career of criticism where I’m simply over Tim Burton. Burton is a talented, imaginative director who has been helming hit films (and many very good ones) since the 1980s, but lately, his material just doesn’t seem to be connecting with me.

In Frankenweenie, he seems to be trying to recharge the old batteries by going back to the beginning; a beloved stop motion animated short he crafted back in 1984. Now it’s a full length 3D feature shot in glorious black and white, and it’s as imaginative and visual as you would expect from Burton.

It involves the story of young Victor Frankenstein and his beloved pet Sparky, who dies in an accident…and Victor being Victor figures out a way to bring the pooch back to life. However, keeping his experiment a secret is harder than it seems, as kids from school get wind and decide to try the same trick on their own passed-on pets.

The result is mayhem, with many of the other kids’ animals returning as monstrosities. There’s a giant turtle, a half-bat cat, and more, unleashing some good-old fashioned monster movie scares on the small town.

I’m not sure it sat well with me that the death of a dog was the jumping-off point for the story, nor did I understand the explanation that the reason Sparky came back as Sparky and the other animals as freaks was because of love…is the movie suggesting the other kids didn’t love their pets as well?

Tim Burton rarely goes for “cute” in his movies, preferring “strange”, and he definitely went that route here. The characters were odd and alienating, and I found it hard to warm up to any of them. Including the dog. For me, the movie’s best moment was the opening, as the family sits down to watch Victor’s home movie starring Sparky as a giant dinosaur hero saving a miniature town from giant toys. That was clever and joyful, and the rest of the film never really managed to equal it.

Still, many fans of Burton seemed delighted by his latest effort, so I’m willing to admit, it may just be me. Frankenweenie is not the work of an untalented filmmaker by any stretch of the imagination. I just couldn’t find a place for it in my heart or in my brain.

Video **** (2D), *** (3D)

The black and white photography is exceptional and beautiful. Images come through cleanly and crisply with superb contrast throughout. As far as the 3D presentation goes, it’s very good, but not quite up to the standard of Disney’s releases with Pixar: there are a few noticeable instances of ghosting here and there. Plus, the stop motion animation in 3D doesn’t always seem to work as smoothly as other forms of animation. Still, a highly impressive effort!

Audio ****

The uncompressed audio delivers dynamic range, effects, and Danny Elfman’s score superbly. There are plenty of big noisy sequences to give your home theatre a full workout. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout.

Features ***

This four disc set includes both a 2D and a 3D Blu-ray disc, plus a DVD and a digital copy. The extras include a new short film showing Victor and Sparky in a home movie, a look at the miniatures used in the movie, a music video by Plain White Ts, a look at a touring exhibit that shows the puppets, sets and props, plus Tim Burton’s original short film of Frankenweenie from 1984.

Summary:

Tim Burton has delivered a love letter to his fans with Frankenweenie, going back to the film that really started it all for him and taking it in bigger and more imaginative directions. I’m just not convinced I fall into that category anymore. However, this is a quality four disc offering from Disney that’s definitely worth a look.

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