This review is based on the 4 disc 3D Blu-ray set.
A young boy named Victor (voice of Charlie Tahan) reanimates his beloved dog Sparky after it dies, causing a series of misadventures when his classmates find out. Also stars the voices of Martin Short, Martin Landau, and Catherine O’Hara.
Directed by Tim Burton
Tim Burton remakes his early short as a full-length stop-motion animated feature, and from the get-go, it is the last movie you might expect to carry the Disney label. Sure, Tim Burton has had success making the macabre mainstream, but a stop-motion animated flick about a dead dog (in black and white no less) might have caused ol’ Walt to have a fit.
Although it is marketed as a kid’s film, Frankenweenie is definitely not for the very young. In truth, older fans of classic horror will love it; little ones will not get most of the jokes nor appreciate the homages to the Universal and Hammer horror classics. It is far too creepy for young kids, and the black and white palette will likely bore them anyway.
Now that we’ve established that this isn’t a kiddie film, we can appreciate it for what it is. Frankenweenie is an entertaining mash-up of the Frankenstein tale with themes of loss and acceptance. It is similar to Edward Scissorhands in that respect, and even Danny Elfman’s score will remind you of that film. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Burton explores the same themes without rehashing Edward. Where Frankenstein explored the contrast between what makes a man and what makes a monster, Frankenweenie is more about relationships. Young Victor’s determination to keep his dog alive propels the story, and the misguided ambition of his friends to replicate his success provides the foil.
One probably shouldn’t try to dissect the meaning of Frankenweenie too deeply, otherwise you’ll miss the fact that this is one of the better salutes to classic horror that Hollywood has produced in a long time. There’s even a nod to Japanese monster movies – fans of Gamera in particular would be particularly pleased. The characters, for all their wierdness and gothic creepiness, have a certain charm and appeal that transcends the fact that these are puppets covered in latex. It’s a certain magic that Burton seems to be able to conjure up.
The film does add several storylines that expand from the original short, and a few don’t exactly work. The ending is a bit silly and over-the-top, even if it is a great monster movie send-up. It detracts a bit from the real heart of the film, but since it is fun, you don’t mind it so much. While Burton does go a bit too dark and wierd at points, it doesn’t derail things totally, and the central themes of a love between a boy and his dog, and the devotion that leads us to do the wrong things for the right reasons, come through.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
If you want to show off how great movies can look on Blu-ray, pop this disc in. Sure, the film doesn’t have any color, but the excellent black and white image demonstrates just how high definition can accurately display the subtle nuances of an image. All the shades of off-white, grays, and blacks are given a distinct presentation. Blacks go from inky and go lighter from there. The detail is absolutely top notch. Even the standard DVD included in the set provides an excellent image.
The 3D high definition video is nothing short of fantastic; it reminds me of the old ViewMaster reels that were popular in the 1970s. The best reels provided 3D images that looked so real, you would want to reach out and grab them. Today’s 3D is good, but with so much CGI, it does not create the true perception of reality. The 3D in Frankenweenie, by using real articulated figures in the process, looked real enough to reach out for.
A number of excellent audio choices are packed onto the disc, led by the superior DTS 7.1 HD-MA mix, that gives an awesome surround sound that highlights Danny Elfman’s score perfectly. There’s also a French 7.1 DTS HD-HR mix, as well as a Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish track. The DVD has Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks in English, French, and Spanish, as well as a 2.0 Descriptive Video Service.
Frankenweenie is the type of movie that begs for behind-the-scenes extras, and the blu-ray does not disappoint. “Miniatures in Motion: Bringing Frankenweenie to Life” is a great featurette that covers production from concept to final product. Building puppet skeletons, encasing them in latex, creating costume and sets, it’s all here. Key fact: animating and filming the puppets created about two minutes of footage a week.
A new Frankenweenie short, Captain Sparky vs. the Flying Saucers,” is also included on the disc. Based on Victor’s home movies, it’s short, but fun. A featurette about the touring exhibit of Frankenweenie props and puppets is quite interesting, especially when they visit the San Diego Comic Con.
The original Frankenweenie short is also included, which is great, and works as an excellent companion piece. A music video is also included. Some sets also include a digital copy of the film.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
Ratings (1-10 scale)
Overall Grade: 8.5
Frankenweenie may not be one of Burton’s best, and it isn’t for kids, but it is a fun, creepy ride that fans of classic horror will enjoy. The 3D is superb, the 2D video is fantastic, the extras are great, and the film itself is well worth your time. It is well worth a buy, whether you choose the 3D, 2D, and DVD sets.
BLU RAY SPECS
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Running time: 87 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS HD-MA, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Descriptive Video Service, French 7.1 DTS HD-HR, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Spanish
Special Features: “Captain Sparky vs. the Flying Saucers” short, “Miniatures in Motion: Bringing Frankenweenie to Life” featurette, Original live action “Frankenweenie” short, “Frankenweenie Touring Exhibit” featurette, Plain White T’s “Pet Sematary” music video