Frankenweenie (2012)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 10/5/12
Director: Tim Burton
Music: Danny Elfman
Cast: Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Charlie Tahan, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau

Victor (Charlie Tahan) is a dreamer who enjoys making home movies. Like most young boys with an active imagination and an inquisitive mind, he has no friends and chooses not to socialize with other kids. His dog Sparky means the world to him, and Victor is crushed when Sparky dies in an accident. Inspired by his science teacher, he attempts to bring Sparky back to life with lightning and miraculously succeeds. Naturally, the undead dog unintentionally wreaks havoc on the town, which results in an angry mob chasing him with torches into a local windmill.

For better or worse, it's more of what we've come to expect from Tim Burton. Unfortunately, the film plays it a little too safe and never strays from the classic Disney formula. It feels trite and contrived, like a weak distillation of all his previous films. However, the animation is superb and I applaud Burton for keeping the laborious art of stop-motion alive. The cast is excellent, and Charlie Tahan gives a moving performance as the young Victor. Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short play multiple roles and are utterly fantastic. The art direction is wonderful and the film is delightful to watch. While the references and allusions to "Frankenstein" are obvious and well played, I was more amused by the more obscure references, like the town mayor who was modeled after the Burgermeister Meisterburger from "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" (1970). The film is very sweet and sentimental, but its themes come across as forced and overly preachy. Perhaps I'm too jaded for its juvenile mentality and kid friendliness.