Frankenweenie (2012)

I’ve been overdosing on caffeine this week thanks to the new Starbucks across the street from my office. Last time I was there some assistant managista told me I should try a Clover. I didn’t  know if that was a kind of frappuccino or drug code so I ignored him. Then some Russian tourist behind me barks, “The best. Give me the best coffee.” They sold him a Panama Paso Ancho, methodically coaxed into existence on an enormous silver contraption that is apparently called the Clover. Intrigued by the absurd complexity of the machine, I ordered one, too.

Now I’m about as much of a coffee connoisseur as I am an oenophile, which is to say my palate is just sensitive enough to notice that coffee and wine are not the same thing. But that shit was insane. I love coffee, but it’s bitter as fuck and not at all what I would call delicious. I drink it because I’m addicted to not killing everyone I see in the morning, and because most days the plumbing needs a bit of a kickstart. But this stuff. I’m not gonna try to describe the taste because it would be pointless. (“An oaky entrance yielding to subtle notes of badger musk, with an acidic finish reminiscent of none-of-this-shit-means-anything.”) Suffice to say it was smooth and wonderful to drink, and it smelled so good the people in the elevator thought I was trying to snort it through the lid. Try the Clover, people. It is best.

I usually don’t approve of sunglasses at night but I’ll make an exception just this once.

The story: When a tragic accident claims the life of his beloved dog, Sparky, young Victor Frankenstein uses his scientific genius to fetch his best friend back from the grave. Family friendly thrills and chills ensue in a manner that’s eerily similar to a live action short from the ’80s, also called Frankenweenie. Just wait ’til 1984 Tim Burton’s lawyers get ahold of 2012 Tim Burton! (All kidding aside, avoid watching the short if you want to be at all surprised by the animated feature. And I guess vice versa if you’re moving backward through time, MERLIN.)

Biggest letdown: A Nightmare Before Christmas this is not but it’s still totally enjoyable. That being said, Frankenweenie doesn’t take many risks. None actually. It’s fun for kids and grownups alike, it’s pretty to look at and the script is packed with witty chuckles and tasteful sci-fi homages. But for all the skill that went into it, the end result is more amusing than artistic, more maudlin than moving. Despite the natural imperfections of stop-motion animation, the movie as a whole comes off as a meticulously polished product, designed to appeal to all and astound none. It’s a lovely little romp and I’m sure it will take home every major animation prize this awards season. I just keep waiting for Tim Burton to delight me like he once did with Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice. Every time he doesn’t I get a little more convinced he’s outgrown the unpredictable, magical phase of his career.

I’m with the dog on this one: 2D is a totally sufficient amount of D’s.

Why you should watch: I won’t pretend to know about animation but I feel safe saying stop-motion is fucking impressive and Frankenweenie is by far the best I’ve ever seen. The movements are so fluid you forget the characters are puppets. This would be a mighty achievement in any animated environment but even more so when the puppets in question have abstractly proportioned bodies with little basis in human anatomy or, you know, physics.

Sparky is not a wiener dog at all. But I guess Frankenbullterrier didn’t test well.

It was weird at first when I picked out Wynona Ryder’s voice as Elsa van Helsing, Victor’s girl next door, since she’s in her 40s and the kid playing Victor is like 15. Then I realized she, like many of the cast members, plays multiple roles. That I didn’t notice the double casting at first, and that I wasn’t bothered when I did, says a lot. And how about that ensemble? In addition to the vocal talents of Ryder and fellow Beetlejiuce alum Catherine O’Hara, how about a hearty welcome back to Martin Short? It has been too long, my friend. And the Martins don’t stop there: put your hands together for Sir Martin Landau! (I am aware he is not a knight, or British for that matter. BUT HE SHOULD BE.)  My favorite cast member was a kid named Atticus Shaffer who plays an Egor-type character. Maybe it was the enormous, gap-toothed smile and the pug nose but I thought he was just the bees knees. Also, cool name, dude.

Edgar’s orthodontics bill is gonna be rough.

Memorable Moment: Becoming a dad has apparently made me into even more of a sissy than I was before, and I was already someone who cried during sappy commercials like this one. They’re all being so nice to each other! Fucking destroys me. In fact, while I was searching for that commercial I busted into tears watching a lame commercial for a goddamn lottery. In Spanish. I need to inject Botox into my tear ducts before I flood the apartment downstairs.

D’awwwwww.

Anything remotely sweet involving children sets me quietly sobbing these days. So it should come as no surprise that the moment that hit me the hardest was right near the beginning when young Victor watches helplessly as his dog gets hit by a car. I swear, the animator who parted his little lips and curved the corners of his mouth down toward his slack jaw must have met my kid. It’s exactly the look she gives us when she bumps her head or swats herself in the eye with a toy.

Choice quote: “Ladies and gentlemen, I think the problem here is…you are all very ignorant.”

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5 Responses to “Frankenweenie (2012)”

  1. Looks like I must go see this movie! And get a Clover ….

  2. […] Frankenweenie – Reanimated corpses. Adorable. […]

  3. […] especially if they’re coming to it for the first time. The lifelike kinetics of movies like Frankenweenie and Coraline might make MMP seem quaint or even amateurish. But watch a character in Mad […]

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