The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Frankenweenie 3D | Martin Short, Martin Landau, Charlie Trahan, Catherine O'Hara, Winona Ryder | Review

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4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Frankenweenie 3D | Martin Short, Martin Landau, Charlie Trahan, Catherine O'Hara, Winona Ryder | Review

Director Tim Burton’s second outing about a boy and his beloved dog Sparky – the name Frankenweenie is NEVER mentioned – is done in stop-motion animation this time around.  His 1984 live action film of the same name was a 30 minute short, also in glorious black and white, also for Disney.

Sparky is an amiable ball of bull terrier putty with a pointy snout, adored by his boy, Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Trahan, voice).  The boy is a loner and science wiz at his middle school in the small suburb of New Holland, but inseparable from Sparky.

Victor’s next door neighbor is the town’s mayor, a sourball of a man named Burgemeister (Martin Short) who lives with his niece, Elsa Van Helsing (Winona Ryder) and her large standard poodle, Persephone.  The mayor has a prized garden and hates dogs, which he never fails to mention to both Elsa and Victor.

The new teacher in town, Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau) exhorts his students to excel in science and resembles a very elongated Vincent Price.  Meanwhile, Victor’s well-meaning parents (Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara) try to get him involved in baseball, which ends in a ball retrieval/auto accident that takes Sparky out – and not for a walk.

A heartbroken Victor harnesses the power of electricity to bring his pet back (hey, a reanimation!) and then must hide the dog from nosy neighbors and classmates.  That lasts for a good five minutes before snoopy E.Gore (Atticus Shaffer) starts making demands.  He’s got a science project that’s due, after all, just like Victor.

Trouble for the town ensues when other students try to copy what Victor’s done.  Don’t you just hate when science projects morph into menacing giant hybrids and escape?  And doesn’t that happen a lot in the animated world?

Burton’s affection for classic horror icons shows in his character names and likenesses.  E. Gore sounds like Peter Lorre and has a hump on his back.  Another character sounds like Boris Karloff and looks a bit like a certain sewn-together creation.  Mr. Rzykruski resembles iconic horror master Vincent Price and in voiced by Martin Landau, who played Bela Lugosi as Dracula in Burton’s Ed Wood.

Elsa Van Helsing’s first name is a tribute to Bride of Frankenstein actress Elsa Lanchester; her surname is that of a famous vampire hunter.   She’s voiced by Winona Ryder, Goth girl in Burton’s Beetlejuice. A headstone in the pet cemetery bears the name Shelley, after the author of the 1818 novel that brought Dr. Frankenstein’s fire-hating creation to the world.  Even the great Christopher Lee makes a surprising live-action appearance.  There are many more such homages to be noted throughout the story.

In Burton’s universe, suburbia is macabre place for kids anyway, even before the onset of electricity-enhanced animals.  Townspeople are shaped into charmingly grotesque forms, either thin and spidery or tremendously rotund to the point seam-bursting corpulence.

The stop-motion animation technique is always a pleasure to encounter, but the 3D effect is negligible, only making a dark film appear even darker.  Burton’s humor already does that.

Despite a scene or two that might be too graphic for small children, the film’s message is one of devotion, loyalty, and companionship.

All for the price of a set of jumper cables

Now that’s a bargain


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