It is a black and white horror-comedy about a boy called Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan), who brings his beloved dog Sparky back to life after losing him in an accident. Victor just zapped his dog back with lightning after getting the idea from science class.
Chaos happen when his friends bring other animals back to life to win the science fair.
There are several references to classic horror like Frankenstein, Godzilla and even the 1958 Dracula film. Burton spins his usual macabre brand of magic with Frankenweenie. It is dark and eerie, but kept playful with the adorable Sparky crudely stitched together.
Burton makes fun of anti-intellectualism through the ponderous science teacher Mr Rzykruski (Martin Landau), who calls his students’ parents ignorant and stupid after they question his methods. One of his students had broken his arm after a hilarious experiment gone wrong. Mr Rzykruski notes that people only welcome contributions by science, but are afraid of the questions it poses. A scientist always questions.
This is a cheeky critique of how religion blocks scientific curiosity and inquiry. Scientific occurrences are often perceived to be witchcraft, says Mr Rzykruski. Indeed, some Republicans like Todd Akins can’t even grasp basic biology with his “legitimate rape” remarks. Or Richard Mourdock who said that pregnancies from rape are an act of God.
Another heavyweight issue that Burton deals with a deft hand is death. After Sparky dies, Victor’s parents try to console him. His mother (Catherine O’Hara) says: “When you lose someone you love, they never really leave you. They move into a special place in your heart.”
And Victor replies: “I don’t want him in my heart. I want him here with me.”
Burton captures the essence of loss with that single line. After losing a loved one, all someone ever wants is to have that person back alive again. Who cares about memories? It brings to mind Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, an excellent book that details a man’s desperation in bringing his beloved son back from the dead.
An emotional roller-coaster with wonderfully detailed characters, Frankenweenie is Burton gold. Those who despaired the boring Dark Shadows will rejoice with Frankenweenie – the return of the master of the macabre.