Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer.
Written by: John August, (based on a screenplay) Leonard Ripps and (based on an original idea) Tim Burton
Running Time: 87 mins
Release date: 17th October 2012
In 1984 a young film maker took a short animation to Disney and was soon fired because they felt his films were too scary and he was wasting Disney’s resources. Nearly 30 years later and Disney have slightly changed their tune as the film maker was Tim Burton and now he has remake his short with a full length movie fans delight and his best film in years.
Victor Frankenstein lives a very sheltered life, making movies in his attic with his pet dog, Sparky, who just happens to be his best friend. A new science teacher comes to his school and announces a science competition while at the same time showing the kids how electricity can bring the dead back to life. Tragically, Sparky is run over which devastates Victor but his science teacher inspires him and so attempts to bring his beloved friend back to life. The experiment works but news spreads around the town that not only is it the greatest science experiment ever but others want a piece of the action.
The first thing you notice about this glorious animation is that it does sit well with Burton’s back catalogue A nice mix of the dark with humour and sentiment that never makes you feel ill. It’s also an affectionate love letter to the Universal horrors of the 30s, with a touch of Gozilla and Gremlins thrown in. Filmed in black and white (and never has a decision been so right), this is the perfect way to introduce the young to horror without them being utterly scared witless thanks to a terrific examination of the importance of true friendship.
Often with family animation there’s the gags that adults will get but kids will be clueless about. This film doesn’t have gags and yet is very funny indeed. The humour comes from the characters and the situations. With their odd looking bodies and individual traits, the creations are as odd and as spooky as those that frequent Burton’s other stop animation masterpiece, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Edgar, Victor’s classmate (based on Igor from Frankenstein) with his buck teeth and odd shaped eyes while my personal favourites, Weird Girl and her cat (who produces some of the biggest laughs, just by meowing) are perfectly realised. They are all supported by superb voices, surprisingly enough, not Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter.
Comic veterans Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara lend their talents to three characters each while Oscar winner Martin Landau is terrific as the Vincent Price-looking science teacher, Mr Rzykruski. The kids also do a good job, with a sympathetic voicing of Vincent by Charlie Tahan.
Along with great humour and some pretty dark moments, the film wins over other recent horror animations because of its heart. It is definitely in the right place. The core of the piece is Victor’s relationship with Sparky and never a true friend has their been. It is genuinely heartbreaking when Sparky dies and let’s face it, we’ve all been there when we’ve lost a beloved family pet. Add to the tugging of the heartstrings is Danny Elfman’s beautiful scoring.
The film does lose its way in the final act when the experiment goes awry but it’s a minor flaw. Also the 3D doesn’t work and this time it really does look like a financial ploy to get you to part with more cash than if you see it in 2D (trust me, 2D is probably better as the black and white makes everything slightly darker. Adding the grey tinted glasses and it’s like looking at blackness!)
After a string of disappointing films from Mr Burton, it’s nice to see him deliver a genuine piece of fun, inventive and affectionate storytelling. It will sit very nicely as a compliment to one of his best film, Edward Scissorhands. An absolute delight from start to finish.