Frankenweenie (PG) 86 mins
Even with stop-motion animation, you can tell it's Tim Burton at work: no cuddly cartoon, Frankenweenie is shot in black and white, shadows everywhere, miles of soulless American suburbia in every shot. Burton's affectionate re-imagining of the Frankenstein fable set among pre-teens is a slight but slick tale that bears all his hallmarks without inducing paroxysms of fear among the kids. There are so many echoes in this film, but none so resonant as Burton's own Edward Scissorhands, with his science geek Victor Frankenstein doubling as Edward and Winona Ryder, sure enough, again cast as the love interest. But while it's dark, it's also funny and clever.
When Victor's lovably thick dog Sparky is run over, Victor is unwittingly inspired by his Eastern European science teacher Mr Rzykruski (Martin Landau) to try and revive him. After a spot of gravedigging and theft of kitchen gadgets, a flash of lightning brings the dog back to life and inspires some copycat science projects from Victor's envious classmates. It's a slow build to this point, but the final action scenes, which borrow most heavily from Gremlins, come in an awful hurry, although the film is none the worse for the change of pace. The depth of detail is impressive, and while some characters are mere pencil sketches, others, like the teacher, Victor himself and his creepy Japanese classmate, are a delight.
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