After all his Johnny Depp collaborations, forays into superhero movies and theatrical, cinematic and television remakes, it's a delight to see Tim Burton unleash his unabashed weirdness with his feature-length version of “Frankenweenie.”
With recent projects like “Dark Shadows” and “Alice in Wonderland,” the director/writer/producer has diluted his bizarre tendencies to better suit mainstream tastes, with varying degrees of artistic and commercial success.
For “Frankenweenie,” Burton, with the help of screenwriter John August, expands his beloved 1984 animated horror-comedy short into a black-and-white stop-motion feature, and in the process, he gets outlandishly strange. And he doesn't care who knows it.
For instance, the film features a big-eyed blond moppet known only as Weird Girl (longtime Burton favorite Catherine O'Hara, who voices three characters), who regards her equally eerie cat Mr. Whiskers as a kind of oracle. The shudder-inducing feline's feces take on the shape of certain letters, Weird Girl determines to whom the ominous droppings are referring, and they then warn that individual that something unusual is about to happen to him or her.
Creepy, right? In the movie, it's also funny and gross and not particularly out of place.
“Frankenweenie's” strange brew of creeps, comedy, adventure and borderline sentimental sweetness calls to mind Burton's earlier features like “Edward Scissorhands” and “Beetlejuice.” Plus, “Frankenweenie” not only pays entertaining homage to classic horror films like “Frankenstein,” “Bride of Frankenstein” and “The Mummy” but also to “Godzilla” films, “Gremlins” and the stop-motion Christmas classic “Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town.”
In the suburb of New Holland, young loner Victor Frankenstein (voice of Charlie Tahan) stands out amid his classmates. Victor doesn't have any friends except his lovable and loyal dog Sparky, who stars in the short films the boy eagerly creates in the vast attic of his family's home. His well-meaning father, Edward (Martin Short) frets that Victor doesn't want to go outside and play like the other kids, while his caring but easily distracted mother (O'Hara again) is content to leave their son to his creative devices.
Starring: Voices of Charlie Tahan, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau. (Thematic elements, scary images and action)