Thursday, October 11, 2012


If you love dogs, you'll love Frankenweenie, Tim Burton's sweetly subversive story of a boy and his (recently deceased) dog. When loyal little Sparky gets hit by a car, heartbroken young Victor sews him up and reanimates him, Frankenstein-style, in his home-made attic lab.

Reinventing a short film he made almost 30 years ago, Burton crafts a black-and-white, 3D, stop-motion animated feature in loving homage to James Whale's horror classic, full of monster movie in-jokes and hilarious sight gags. The lab scene is deliriously fun, as Victor generates electricity  using a spectacular lightning storm outside to drive every household appliance in the attic capable of rotation—electric fan, bike wheels, the reels of a film projector, a record-player turntable.

Victor's grade school science teacher is a Vincent Price lookalike with an unpronounceable Slavic name; his classmates are junior ghouls in the making, from eager young hunchback E(dgar) Gore to a pint-sized Karloff clone, to a budding mad Japanese scientist. The tombstones in the pet cemetery are shaped like crossed dog biscuits, a fishbowl, or a fire hydrant, with inscriptions like "Goodbye, Kitty."

Heroic little Sparky (an adorable little pooch of indeterminate breed—to say the least) gets to save the day when a herd of grotesquely reanimated pets invades the town, led by a giant Turtle-zilla (named "Shelley," natch).

Everyone should recognize the burning windmill finale from Whale's original Frankenstein, but only connoisseurs (like Art Boy) may get Burton's reference to vintage '50s sci-fi B-movie, Invasion of the Saucer Men, at the very end, when all the townsfolk gather their cars in a circle and turn on the headlights for one last energy burst.

Frankenweenie is loads of silly fun, but best of all, it offers plenty of genuine resonance about the bond between people and their beloved pets.  You'll want to hug your own little guy the minute you get home!

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