Victor Frankenstein is a science geek kid who loves nothing more than conducting experiments, making quirky films and playing with his beloved dog, Sparky. When Sparky is tragically run over, the devastated Victor is inspired to try using lightning to bring him back. Although the experiment is a success, word soon gets out about Victor’s accomplishment and with the science fair only days away, the copy-cat experiments of others do not work quite so well: with monstrous results.

Frankenweenie (2012) – Director: Tim Burton

Is Frankenweenie appropriate for kids

Rating: PG

Running Length: 87 mins

Starring: Charlie Tahan, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder

Genre: Animated, Horror

 

REVIEW

Director Tim Burton originally created a stop motion animation short called ‘Frankenweenie’ in 1984 which featured a dog being brought back from the dead in a fun ode to ‘Frankenstein’. The idea has now had 20,000 volts blasted through it and has been given the gift of a full length feature, although pleasingly the stop-motion animation style has been retained. Although still running at a short 87 minutes, the scale and scope of the story has been hugely re-worked, giving ‘Frankenweenie’ a gleeful jolt of horror pastiche throughout. Taking nods from all the old horror movie classics (including ‘Bride of Frankenstein’, the ‘Godzilla’ series, and the Bela Lugosi era-‘Dracula’), ‘Frankenweenie’ is expertly shot in a black and white love letter to all things classic horror.

There are times when you can tell that this is an idea that has been stretched out from a small amount of source material and the movie does occasionally feel like it is flying down one tangent after another in order to fill up the running time; but in all honesty it has been a long time since Burton dug up a corpse so fresh. The lead character, Victor, is very engaging as a science obsessed boy who finds matters get away from him once his beloved dog, Sparky, has been rescued from Death’s clutches and Burton cleverly keeps the focus on this sweet, loving relationship. Even as the screen fills up with more and more over the top chaos, Victor and Sparky provide an emotional anchor which allow the thoroughly fun flights of fancy to be given free reign. ‘Frankenweenie’ takes the stereotypes of horror and has huge fun with them without ever dumbing itself down in the process and makes for an enthralling dose of the macabre for children everywhere.

IS ‘FRANKENWEENIE’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

Several characters in this film are very creepy. ‘Weird Girl’ has a permanently wide eyed expression (as does her cat, Mr Whiskers) and often says creepy things. Edger (who is clearly a nod to the ‘Igor’ characters of horror) is hunchbacked and has a propensity to cackle. This is in keeping with the style of the film though and will most likely not be upsetting. Edger considers himself rather sneaky, but at various points in the film he finds himself cornered by larger kids and feels quite threatened. However on each of these occasions he manages to sweet talk himself out of danger.

Victor’s dog, Sparky, is killed early on by being run over. We do not see the actual impact but there is a fast shot from Sparky’s point of view showing the vehicle quickly approaching and the camera cuts quickly, although a loud thump is then heard. Victor had been shown to be very loving with Sparky and he is deeply upset by his dog’s death. The sadness continues for up to 5 – 10 minutes, including a shot where the next door neighbour’s dog whimpers and pushes a ball it used to share with Sparky through a hole in the garden fence.

In the third act of the film, Mr. Whiskers has caught a bat and is chewing on it. When Mr. Whiskers is struck by lightning her undergoes a protracted transformation scene whereby the ‘cat’ and ‘bat’ elements fuse together. He is shown to mutate, grow in size, and sprout extra body parts. This scene is a put together as a centrepiece moment and features lots of close ups. Any child sensitive to cats suffering may be upset by this scene.

Similar to Mr. Whiskers, other animals undergo transformations. Some sea monkeys become massive in size and surround Victor’s parents, threateningly. A turtle becomes humongous, rampaging around the town. This includes crushing a small ‘evil’ hamster like creature. The moment is very quick but highlighted as a comedy event. Whether or not a child will be alright with this part will depend on how sensitive they are to the death of animals.

The climax of the movie features a windmill that is on fire. One animal becomes impaled on a large wooden beam in a shot that lasts a few seconds. Sparky is trapped as the windmill collapses and the other characters become very upset. However, this upset only lasts a few minutes and, as this is the end of the film, if children have been alright up to this point then they will most likely be alright with this scene.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

Frankenweenie’ is clearly in love with its inspirations and the film is a huge amount of fun for adults due to the carefully constructed homage to classic horror as a genre. However it also features very likeable leads and a loving tale of a boy and his dog at the heart which should help prevent the film from being too scary for kids and despite the horror element there really is very little that is frightening here. Perhaps the biggest point of concern is that the crux of the story features animal death and loss which we would advise you to use your judgement for. In our opinion this movie should be appropriate for kids age 6 and up.

  • Violence: 2/5 (Edger is often intimidated by larger boys although no physical violence comes from this. Several animals die)
  • Emotional Distress: 3/5 (Victor is a sweet kid and his pain at the death of Sparky may be upsetting, although he does brings Sparky back to life shortly after)
  • Fear Factor: 3/5 (A sense of classic horror is constant and Mr. Whisker’s transformation may scare)
  • Sexual Content: 0/5
  • Bad Language: 0/5
  • Dialogue: 1/5 (Victor’s parents try to re-assure him after Sparky’ death but he is too upset to listen)
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of dealing with death, the potential for abuse of science in the wrong hands, mob mentality and being good to those you love.

Words by Mike Record

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