MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Frankenweenie’ barks up the wrong tree

I think you will need more than a doggy bag to take this guy for a walk.

“Oops, I did it again.”


No, not THAT.  ‘Oops’ would be contrary to the word I’d use if that were the case…. with a few exceptions.


I’m referring to the fact I just watched my third Time Burton movie in as many days.  If this review comes across as morbid, you now know the reason.  In what I’m labeling the 2012 Terrifying Tim Trifecta, the latest film to fall victim my eyes is Burton’s latest animation offering, Frankenweenie.


After three Tim Burton movies in a row, I could use some rose-colored glasses myself.


Now before you start questioning my choice in cinema, sanity, level of maturity, and overall sanity – let me at least explain my initial interest in this (supposedly) family-aimed film.   First and foremost I’m a dog lover.  While I love all animals – except the ones that pose an immediate threat to the safety of my vital organs – I have a huge soft spot in my heart for dogs.


… Especially my own… lazy mutt!


What’s more, the story of a boy and his dog is very appealing to me at the moment since I, too, am a boy (as my parents lovingly refer to me ala The Simpsons) with a dog.  Add to the fact the title insinuated the canine would be a Dachshund – the scientific term being wiener – and it sealed the deal for me.  The fact it happened to fit into the Halloween theme and the trend of my recent reviews also didn’t hurt.


Geek Outlaw kissing his wiener… dog Pebbles. (I know what you were thinking… perverts.)


Seeing as I defended myself enough and I know I’m still going to get grief from a select few (aka everyone), I’m going to get straight to the review.


*WARNING: As is norm, basic plot spoilers will be revealed.  Enter at your own risk…


Yup… I’m gonna have nightmares!


On the subject of warnings, I think it’s only gentlemanly of me to share that this is no kids movie… despite what so-called marketing gurus would have you believe via the trailer.  After viewing creepy human characters, scary animal mutants, and the death of a pet – I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit scared and I’m in my early 30’s!  (Emphasis on the word early).



All this is done in true Burtonesque fashion of course, with the odd animated caricatures with matching personalities, the lack of Technicolor (Corpse Bride & Ed Wood) and often used timeline of the fifties-ish era.


I had no problem with the last two themes, as I understood Burton was going for a take on the classic monster movies infamous during the days of black and white film.  What I wasn’t at all impressed with were the characters themselves.  Outside of the Frankenstein family (I wonder if they are Jewish) and their dog, every other character was nefarious, menacing, uninteresting and/or just down right strange.


With friends like these, who needs Halloween costumes?


Of the few things I did enjoy about Frankenweenie (and yes I laugh every time I type the word) was the unique story.   The plot revolves around Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) and his dog Sparky, who also represents his only friend in life.


As most of you who viewed the preview may have gathered, the crux of the story deals with the unexpected death of Sparky, and Victor’s successful attempt to bring him back to the world of the living.


Nothing beats the touching story of a boy and his undead dog.


Obviously the unique aspect here is that man’s best friend bites the bullet within the opening minutes of the movie versus the closing ones, but the emotional impact is still powerful.  I chalk this up more to the fact that seeing a loved pet pass away is always an emotional moment, almost regardless of how it’s portrayed on screen.


This also serves Geek Outlaw’s scientific theory (and fact) that people tend to become much more emotionally connected to likable animal characters on screen than likable humans (the latter of which seems to be tougher to find on screen these days).  Dare I say this statement can be applied to the real world as well.


The death of a pet is never an easy thing… even in a twisted Tim Burton animated movie.


Once Sparky is brought back to life, the rest of the movie deals with Victor’s attempt to hide his newly undead buddy in fear of what might happen for the out-of-the-ordinary feat he has accomplish.  There is also the secondary story of the dire consequences attributed to his classmates learning the truth and subsequently try to reproduce the same achievement in order to win their schools science fair.


Despite the misleading title, (Sparky in NO way looks like a wiener dog even in Burton’s twisted world), I truly wanted to like Frankenweenie more than I actually did.  Any attempts at humor fell flatter than a saltine under an anvil and the supporting cast was just plain unlikable.  The only truly noteworthy character was the funny, yet completely strange science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (voiced by the always recognizable and amazing Martin Landau).


Now THAT’s a Frankenweenie. (The half mini-dachshund, half chihuahua love of my life.)


Was it entertaining?  Kind of.  Did it pull at your emotional heart strings?  There were a few scenes that made the Outlaw’s eyes water up with some manly tears.  Is it worth your hard earned money?  I can honestly say wait for video… If you must.


And IF you must, make sure to leave the really little ones (Under 21) out of the equation.  Maybe it was the combination of three consecutive Burton freak-films, but my self-enrollment into psychotherapy may be all the proof you need… possibly.




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