Over 90 years after the inception of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, the Thomas Edison Company created the first film adaptation of this well-known timely classic (“Frankenstein”, 1910). Since then, the motion picture industry has reinvented and incorporated the many themes, motifs, and symbols associated with this story’s immeasurable popularity, producing approximately 20 different feature and made-for-television films.
Disney’s latest attempt with hiring the iconic and somewhat predictable artist Tim Burton to helm and expand a 27-minute short from a 1984 project by the same name, “Frankenweenie” aptly portrays the story of Victor Frankenstein as a young child who wants to reanimate his deceased pet dog.
That original short was first rejected by the Walt Disney Company, deemed as an unsuitable story for children. Fast forwarding almost three decades later, one can only imagine the amount of sanitizing and “development hell” this story might have gone through to receive the green light. Still harboring scenes arguably unsuitable for the tots, this modern adaptation, although well-rounded, falls dramatically short of expectations.
The marketing strategy overseen by Disney procures a comedic setup with no payoff; unfortunately, the funniest moments have already been presented via trailers. In defense of Tim Burton’s recognizable artistic dark humor, one may rightly assume to garner more of a catharsis than several belly laughs as Disney might have audience members believe.
Nevertheless, Burton creates some memorable cast members and set pieces worthy of praise. Danny Elfman’s score, although under-served, appeases the senses while serving the mundane story progression, all the while preventing any impulse downloads of the soundtrack. Also, there are several moments of subtle nuance which aid in the eye candy served up in this stop-motion homage to science fiction.
One such moment comes from a momentary shot in a pet cemetery with a tombstone engraved with “Goodbye Kittie”. These elements are sure to keep the more astute and mature generation from becoming too bored with the story and its lackadaisical pacing.
“Frankenweenie” does score with its tender moments and art direction. The black and white color scheme is rich and detail-oriented, reminiscent and respectful of the evergreen works of art that have come beforehand. This production team, above and below the line, also deserve respect for their efforts; however, one can only guess how long audiences will continue to consume the same reclusive protagonist and “stock” characterizations that have become the Tim Burton benchmark of success.
Disney lovers (as well as Tim Burton lovers) should, in the end, should find themselves satisfied. Those seeking a heartier meal might find themselves seeking some more sustenance, as “Frankenweenie” may not provide those “just desserts”.
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