Tim Burton is, undoubtedly, one of the most famous directors alive. He burst into the scene in the late eighties with a unique visual style inspired by low-budget horror movies and german expressionism. It was an original style that soon became the Burton trademark. Almost thirty years later, Burton has become such a synonym with his style, that what once felt original now feels generic. And in the latest years, Burton seems to be in auto-pilot, making whatever project that could fit with his trademark style. When you go see a Tim Burton movie nowadays, you only get what you expect.
In that way, 'Frankenweenie' is a quintessentially Burton. The film is based on one of Burton's first shorts. It's the story of Victor, a young boy so sad about his dog Sparky's death, that he decides to bring him back to live frankenstein-style. Victor is a weird loner who doesn't really fit in the suburban setting he is in. Victor is also a boy very enamored with horror movies. He even dresses Sparky as a monster to film his own.
As you can see from the subject matter, this feels like a very personal film. Victor feels very much like a child version of Burton, a weird boy with a love for film who just doesn't fit in. But the personal connection and emotion stops there. As a 'Frankenstein' spoof, the movie is full with somewhat clever horror references and has a cast of very bizarre Burtonesque characters, but the story is very straightforward and unimaginative. There is nothing surprising, special or original about Victor's quest.
There is very little of a character arc and I couldn't tell you what the movie is really about. At one point I thought it was about acceptance. Then about tolerance. Then about learning to let go. But it ends up being about nothing at all. It is just a horror spoof with some amusing jokes. Like I said at the beginning of this review, it's the kind of movie you would expect from Tim Burton: One that is filled with his once original style, but has an incredibly generic substance.
You might or might not have read my review of 'Paranorman', a movie that bears many similarities to 'Frankenweenie' in its stop-motion animation style and horror comedy theme. It, however, does a much better job of telling a story worth listening and connecting to. 'Frankenweenie' is the movie I was afraid 'Paranorman' was going to be: a sometimes amusing horror spoof, but nothing more.