For all the recent misfires, Tim Burton has made some terrific films in his career – Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Batman, Ed Wood ... even Mars Attacks! So the good news is that Frankenweenie is up there with the best of them.
It's a rehash of a short that Burton made in 1984, while he was working at Disney. The original 25-minute short was live action, but for the full-length remake, Burton has decided to go with stop-motion animation, as he did with A Nightmare Before Chrtistmas and Corpse Bride.
Set somewhere in the suburban America of the 1950s, Frankenweenie is the tale of lonely Victor Frankenstein (Tahan), whose only pal is his little dog, Sparky. Victor loves nothing more than to make little Super 8 monster movies starring Sparky, so he's shattered when Sparky is run over and killed. Taking what he's learnt from his science teacher Mr Rzykruski (voiced by Landau, but looking very Vincent Price-like), Victor digs up the corpse of his beloved pet and harnesses the power of a lightning storm to bring sparky back to life. He's alive. HE'S ALIVE!
Frankenweenie is a sweet, charming homage to the classic Universal monster movies of the 1930s and '40s ... with a touch of the 1950s classics from Japan thrown in. After the success of Victor's experiment, some of his classmates re-animate some of their former pets too – and the results swing from amusing to horrifying. The stop-motion animation is superb, with gorgeous character designs and great voice work from the cast. The look and feel, thanks to the beautiful sets and the fact that it's been shot in black and white, perfectly recapture the great horror films of old. it's a shame that Burton has had to mine his past to remind us what a great filmmaker he can be, but Frankenweenie has been worth the digging – it's destined to become a classic in its own right.
EXTRAS ★ Pretty poor. Once again, DVD buyers are shortchanged with shoddy bonus features. All you get is a short puff piece on the Frankenweenie Touring Exhibit (4:26) and Plain White T's Pet Sematary Music Video (3:46). Those buying the Blu-ray version also get the original short Captain Sparky vs The Flying Saucers, the making-of featurette Miniatures in Motion: Bringing Frankenweenie To Life and Burton's original live-action Frankenweenie short.