BLU-RAY REVIEW: Frankenweenie
Tim Burton's Latest Hits Disney Hi-Def Home Video...
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Directed by the one and only Tim Burton and written by John August, Frankenweenie is Disney's latest animated adventure to hit hi-def home video and includes not only Burton's trademark style but also a unique story that's fun and a talented voice cast - including Charlie Tahan, Winona Ryder, Atticus Schaffer, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, and Robert Capron - that'll keep you entertained. Of course, nothing Burton brings to life on screen is normal and Frankenweenie is no exception. Going into the film, moviegoers should know they're going to experience something fun, interesting and a little bit odd. Just as unusual as the director's previous films, this one follows an interesting and unique take on Victor Frankenstein's childhood and the dog which died and didn't got to heaven.
The story follows the young, nerdy Victor Frankenstein (Tahan) and his dog Sparky as the pair experience the trials and tribulations of growing up...if "growing up" where you're from includes having your dog hit by a car, you bringing it back to life, and then your secret being found out by your classmate. Of course, things only escalate from here...
To say Frankenweenie has heart is an understatement. If you've ever owned a dog, you can instantly relate to Victor, who's best friend - Sparky - is tragically killed. Coping with this sort of tragedy is hard on anyone - even adults - and it's presented here maturely. It's all too often the death of a pet is a young person's first experience with mortality and for many, how they deal with this death shapes not only how they'll understand their own mortality, but their future reaction to death as well. Thankfully, we're introduced here to not only an engaging, enjoyable and entertaining film, but a mature take on the emotional ties between person and pet. And with the topic of death being dealt with in an entertaining but mature manner, an opportunity to discuss the sensitive matter with children and youth who watch the film is present here as well.
Again, for those who've seen any of Burton's film, they'll instantly recognize the director's style everywhere here. The stop-motion animation is brilliant (as always) and the previously mentioned voice actors are well cast with Martin Landau as the science teacher who inspires Victor especially marvelous. Overall, the film comes to life with a poignant story, engaging dialogue, heart-felt emotion, and plenty to see and enjoy.
Both audio and video are excellent, with the 1080p video dynamically bringing to life the smooth, dark feature. Likewise, for those fans enjoying the 3D version, the image pops - quite literally - with the characters appearing as though you could touch them (that's not saying I didn't try!). The stop-motion animation is typical Burton and looks just as good if not better than the director's previous films. Likewise, the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround audio track delivers dynamic range and provides plenty to find impressive. Dialogue is always clear and present even when background noise should be overwhelming.
Both the 2D and 3D versions of the film are available in high definition and the film is also here in standard DVD. Special features include the 23-minute "Miniatures in Motion: Bringing Frankenweenie to Life," which should impress fans who want to see how the film was made. A great overview of the production, this featurette includes insight from director Tim Burton, executive producer Don Hahn, producer Allison Abbate, animation director Trey Thomas and others from the cast and crew at Three Mills Studio in London, where the film was made. The 5-minute "Frankenweenie Touring Exhibit" includes pictures of the production artwork, photos, models, and the exhibit which actually toured and showcased the film's fine art. Two short films are also included here: the original 30-minute live-action "Frankenweenie" from 1984 and "Captain Sparky vs. The Flying Saucers." Both serve their purpose as supplements here, though of course there's nothing like watching the original live-action film to see what Burton originally had up his sleeve. Fans of the animated film shouldn't miss the live-action either. Lastly, a 4-minute music video for The Plain White T's "Pet Sematary" is included as are a plethora of trailers for new and old Disney movies coming soon to a theater or store shelf near you.
For fans of Burton's previous hits, Frankenweenie is a no-brainer; it's got everything you've come to expect from the brilliantly creepy and down-right odd movie maker. For those who've never seen a Burton film (how dare you!), you're in for a treat as this is an enjoyable jaunt into a crazy world that's part horror story, part family drama, part comedy and part coming of age story makes for a solid family film that'll have all ages laughing, crying and sharing in the fun that is Frankenweenie.
Frankenweenie is available now on blu-ray and DVD wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley