“I don’t want him in my heart,” says young Victor Frankenstein (voice of Charlie Tahan). “I want him here with me.” Victor’s dog Sparky has died. Victor’s parents (voices of Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short) are sympathetic, but he’s inconsolable, so when science teacher Mr. Rzykrunski (voice of Martin Landau) demonstrates how electricity reanimates a dead frog’s legs and explains that lightning is electricity, Victor’s brain begins to work. That’s the setup for this clever, stop-motion animated homage to Hollywood’s classic horror films.
Can Victor bring Sparky back to life? Will Victor’s strange classmates — Edgar, Toshiaki and Nassor (Atticus Shaffer, James Hiroyuki Liao, Martin Short) — succeed as well? What of Mr. Whiskers, the cat that poops omens, and the Weird Girl (Catherine O’Hara)? For answers to these and other bazaar questions, see “Frankenweenie.” Movie geeks (like me) will see it twice. (I did.)
Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short lead a skillful voice cast. O’Hara is the voice of Mrs. Frankenstein, Weird Girl and Gym Teacher. Short voices Mr. Frankenstein, New Holland Mayor Mr. Burgemeister and Nassor, Victor’s classmate who looks and walks like the robot in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951). Charlie Tahan is the voice of Victor, a loner, who tells chubby Edgar (Atticus Shaffer), who wants to work together on a science fair project, “Sorry, Edgar, I don’t need a partner. I like to work alone.”
Others in the cast include Martin Landau as Mr. Rzykrunski (who looks like Vincent Price), Winona Ryder as next-door neighbor Elsa Van Helsing, and Atticus Shaffer and James Hiroyuki Liao as classmates Edgar E. Gore, a hunchback, and Toshiaki, whose dead turtle becomes Godzilla-sized. Watch for Christopher Lee as Movie Dracula.
“Frankenweenie” is clever stop-motion animation and smart homage to horror films from “Frankenstein” (1931) and “The Birds” (1963) to “The Gremlins” (1984) and “Jurassic Park” (1993), among others. Older kids will get the story (scary for little kids), and movie fans will love the references and non-stop visual and verbal jokes. Director Tim Burton and John August (with others) created the characters and script. Like the 30s films it celebrates, “Frankenweenie” is in expressionistic black and white, with vintage special effects, non-gimmicky 3-D, and evocative music by Danny Elfman. The movie’s heart is Victor and Sparky’s bonding, but science teacher Mr. Rzykrunski teaches a lesson, too. He has little use for adults who “like what science gives them, but not the questions it asks.”
Rated PG for themes, images and action, the film runs 87 minutes. Like Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Corpse Bride”? You’ll like this one.
It’s animated fun,
For older kids, adults,
This “weenie” is the one.