Director: Tim Burton
Lead Actors: Martin Short, Winona Ryder
|Don Hahn||....||executive producer|
|Connie Nartonis Thompson||....||associate producer|
|Simon Quinn||....||line producer|
Young Victor Frankenstein, a child in New Holland, an American suburb, (which alert Tim Burton fans will notice is not a new theme for him) is hopelessly tied to his science experiments. His only friend is his dog, Sparky.
This bothers his Dad, played by a magnanimous Martin Short, who wants Victor to socialize with other kids. He makes a deal with Victor that if he will play baseball with the other kids, his dad will sign a permission slip for Victor to participate in the science fair (which is administered by a spooky, yet caring science teacher Mr. Rzykruski, who resembles Vincent Price but is played with much gusto by Martin Landau.
So Victor agrees, and he manages to hit a home run in a game against his equally spooky and creepy neighbors and classmates. His dog, Sparky, ever the trusty sidekick is watching and chases after the ball and in so doing meets his untimely end as he crosses a busy street.
Now, this is where some "Boy and his Dog" movies, like "Old Yeller" end- the boy's dog, and favorite companion, meet death while doing a heroic act.
But this happens not even half way through a full-length movie, and, well, the title pretty much gives away what's going to happen next. Young Victor, who resembles Mary Shelley's young Victor Frankenstein in his passion for science, will attempt to bring Sparky back to life . .. through science!
The results are interesting and heartwarming. Victor's experiments catch the eyes of his freakishly ghoulish neighbors and classmates who will be competing against him in the science fair. They see the magic that Victor can yield, and they want in.
Who Would Like It and Why
Monster movie fans will enjoy a full romp and homage to as many monster movie clichés as one monster movie fan can fit into a movie, including one of the inexplicably ghoulish neighbors of Victor being mummified,
SPOILER ALERT one of the Japanese American neighbors brings his pet turtle named Shelley (which could be a tie back to Mary Shelley) turning into a Godzilla-like menace when an experiment to bring it back to life goes terribly terribly wrong!
Also, I think that all dog lovers will enjoy the realistic portrayal of a great dog by Burton, even after he dies and has been brought back to life!
Burton has fun with this little suburb called New Holland. Burton fans will know that as was well-documented in Burton's older movie "Edward Scissorhands", Burton has conflicted feelings about his upbringing in Burbank suburbs as a child. New Holland is portrayed with both love and contempt. Victor's contemporaries seem to all have something wrong with them. One of his friends looks like the hunch backed assistant to Dr. Frankenstein, with hunched back and teeth going in all different directions. Another character has eyes as big as some of the character's heads.
This just seems to be Burton having fun with animation. New Holland seems to be a strange place though, as it is revealed early on that the town is very susceptible to lightning. It is even revealed that Mr. Rzykruski, the odd yet stimulating science teacher played by Martin Landau, is a replacement to a teacher thought to have been killed by lightning.
No wonder the Mayor Burgmeister of New Holland seems to be so insecure about luring newcomers to New Holland.
Who Might Not Like It and Why
There were certainly some plot holes, and I think that Burton seemed to favor monster parody over Robert Mckee screenplay structure. This was clearly a case of a very powerful and popular director having fun with his animation and his friends and deciding to make it a full-lenght feature movie.
Burton seemed to bring some characters from his past into this movie, for example, I could have sworn he used one of the fat characters who played Tweedle Dee or Tweedle or Tweedle Dum in Alice In Wonderland as a fat kid in this movie.
What I loved most about this movie was Martin Short playing a very straight, caring, down to Earth father to a son who is without a doubt a genius and who has to be handled with great care. His performance brought comfort.
As a movie fan I was also thrilled to hear a voice that belonged to Hollywood's original "creepy girl", Winona Ryder. She played Victor's neighbor - a possible love interest. She was very much at home and welcome in this monster romp!
Also, having grown up as someone who was given Sea Monkeys as a present and never did anything with them, it was interesting to see what would happen if you just add water . . . and electricity . . . to the package’s contents. . . . !
Alert movie fans will remember that Tim Burton's Wife, Helena Bonham Carter, played the bride of Frankenstein in Kenneth Branaugh's brave film interpretation of the story not so long ago. Perhaps she had some influence on the appearance of Sparky's love interest, Persephone, in the movie.
Persephone, Sparky's love interest.
Rating: Three Mike and Ikes