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“Frankenweenie” is a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town all learn that getting a new “leash on life” can be monstrous.
For more about Frankenweenie 3D and the Frankenweenie 3D Blu-ray release, see Frankenweenie 3D Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 4, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Charlie Tahan, Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Robert Capron
Director: Tim Burton
» See full cast & crew
Frankenweenie 3D Blu-ray Review
Burton slips. Disney does not...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 4, 2013
It was beginning to look like Tim Burton's feature-length Frankenweenie, the long-gestating adaptation of the director's own 1984 live-action short film of the same name, was never going to claw its way out of production hell. Deemed too frightening for children and buried by Disney upon completion, the original Frankenweenie short didn't make its U.S. debut until 1994, where it proceeded to slowly but surely garner a cult following. And rightfully so. Sharp, lean and surprisingly moving, Burton's short film is less detached and more emotionally involving than many of his more recent films and remains one of his most effective and timeless, despite its length and relative obscurity. Alas, young Victor Frankenstein and his reanimated pup would have been better off in their shallow grave. The new Frankenweenie is a gorgeous undertaking, I'll admit, brimming with striking hand-crafted artistry, marvelous miniatures and truly impressive production design. But at a bloated 87-minutes, the story itself is little more than a cold, hollow expansion of Burton's original short, while his once very human characters, rendered stiff and stilted with lanky toothpick bodies and corpse-like faces, fail to connect.
Junior scientist and aspiring filmmaker Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan, Charlie St. Cloud) doesn't have a friend in the world, save his faithful canine companion, Sparky. Concerned with their son's isolation, Victor's parents Edward and Susan (Martin Short, The Santa Clause 3, and Catherine O'Hara, Where the Wild Things Are) sign the young boy up for baseball, a noble notion that unfortunately ends in tragedy when Sparky, chasing a ball Victor knocks out of the park, is hit by a car and killed. Initially devastated but ultimately inspired, Victor becomes determined to bring Sparky back from the dead, a feat he accomplishes with some innovation, know-how and a lucky lightning storm. The boy's successful reanimation of his dog leads to trouble, though, when classmate Edgar Gore (Atticus Shaffer, The Unborn) forces Victor to reveal the secret to raising the dead. Soon the sleepy town of New Holland is overrun with undead pets, all transformed into evil monsters with a taste for trouble. With no one to turn to, it falls to Victor and Sparky to right scientific wrongs and save their town from a gruesome fate.
Many have predicted the death of stop-motion animation over the years, and Burton should be commended for the part he's played in keeping it alive and kicking. But Frankenweenie is more Corpse Bride than Nightmare Before Christmas; the wide-eyed, oft-expressionless denizens of New Holland are mere zombies compared to the soulful creatures and living, breathing characters of other stop-motion adventures. Victor's mourning doesn't look that much different from his excitement. Edward and Susan's faces are frozen in the same blank, ghastly gaze. And Victor's more grotesque classmates are as one-note as they come. Only Sparky earns affection. Only Sparky leaves a lasting mark. Only Sparky warrants tears. Only Sparky (and perhaps some of the vile pets that terrorize the town) will be remembered long after the credits roll. Burton's sullen, reclusive heroes are caricatures of his own isolation, his antagonists a commentary on society's most cruel and heartless, the children that surround Victor a ragtag band of eccentrics and outcasts only suited to the coming-of-awkward-age tale at hand. It doesn't help that the actor's voices are strangely disconnected from the puppets they're meant to inhabit, almost to the point of being disembodied.
John August's screenplay buckles under the weight of Burton's pudgy expansion too, with dead-end subplots, manufactured motivations and inconsequential stakes aplenty. The heart of Frankenweenie is intact -- boy loves dog, boy loses dog, boy reanimates dog to amusing ends -- and the nods and direct parallels to Frankenstein are a clever delight. But too much angst-ridden fluff and macabre filler make it clear Burton didn't have a grand vision when first reimagining his original short. He had a loose notion. A nagging itch to make it all bigger and better without a compelling plan to make it happen. Like many of his recent films, live-action or animated, Burton sets a beautifully offbeat stage but neglects to fill it with captivating people or engrossing fantasy. It's a shame too. When the third act settles in, Frankenweenie springs to life. The monster madness injects some much-needed vitality into the film, the undead animals are a blast (particularly the gremlin- esque sea monkeys), and the final burning windmill set piece brings thrilling yet intensely focused closure to an otherwise meandering misadventure. Is Frankenweenie a complete failure? Not at all. Does it deliver on its promise and potential, now almost thirty-years old? Sadly, no. It's simply the ghost of a quaint but affecting short film.
Frankenweenie 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
No disappointment here whatsoever. Frankenweenie ascends to top-tier heaven with not one but two stunning 1080p video presentations -- an exceedingly impressive AVC-encoded 2D image and an equally eye-popping MVC-encoded 3D experience -- both of which look every bit as good as each one should. Crisp, clean whites, gorgeous gray gradients and rich, inky blacks lend the 2D image a wonderful sense of depth and bolster the 3D presentation's dimensionality to incredibly lifelike ends. The puppets and sets are so convincingly realized in three dimensions, in fact, that the urge to reach out and touch them shouldn't make anyone feel foolish, even if the 3D presentation provides more inward, world-deepening immersiveness than outward, screen-popping gimmickry. Contrast is vibrant and unwavering as well, and detail is nothing short of flawless. Edges are clean and refined (without any unsightly ringing), perfectly resolved fine textures reveal every nuance of the clothes, models and sets that appear, and delineation doesn't falter. Moreover, significant macroblocking, banding, aliasing, noise and other abominations are nowhere to be found in either presentation, and the 3D experience isn't prone to crosstalk (which, when it does crop up, is a product of the 3D display or glasses anyway, not Disney's 3D encode). As it stands, I'd be hard pressed not to give Frankenweenie a second chance, if only to marvel at the 3D presentation one more time. No matter your reaction to the film itself, this is one presentation you won't soon forget.
Frankenweenie 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Disney's 3D presentation isn't the only thing that will pull you into New Holland. Frankenweenie boasts a terrific and terrificly enveloping DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track sure to stir up a few oohs and aahs of its own. Dialogue (despite the slightly detached quality inherent to the film's original sound design) is clear, nicely centered and impeccably prioritized, and voices are never lost or buried, even when chaos invades Victor's quiet town. The LFE channel knows when to sit back and when to storm forward too, granting believable weight to low-end elements and power and presence to anything that demands more intense, earth-shaking support. Likewise, rear speaker activity is robust and aggressive, filling each environment and locale with natural ambience and engaging atmosphere, key scenes with neck-twisting directional effects, and the climactic third act with scampering creatures, billowing flames, collapsing ceilings and desperate cries for help. All the while, dynamics are excellent, the soundfield is consuming and cross-channel pans are frighteningly smooth. As animated AV presentations go, Frankenweenie delivers on all fronts.
Frankenweenie 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Frankenweenie 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Once a bold visionary, Burton seems to have lost touch with much of what made his early films so wondrous and his most memorable characters so achingly human. Frankenweenie should be a moving masterwork in stop-motion storytelling. It should be the heartbreaking, perhaps even heartwarming tale of a boy and his dead dog. Instead, it's a stilted, cumbersome expansion of a short film with more heart and soul in its thirty minutes than Burton's feature-length adaptation musters in ninety. Fortunately, Disney's 3D Blu-ray release doesn't go silently into the night. Its video presentation is outstanding, its 3D experience almost worth the price of admission alone, its DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track impresses, and its supplemental package, though lacking in some regards, delivers thanks to a first-rate production documentary. Frankenweenie may have left me cold, but its Blu-ray release did not. If you have any love for Burton's latest, you'll be completely taken by Disney's efforts.
Frankenweenie: Other Editions
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Frankenweenie 3D Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: January 8-15 - January 5, 2013
For the week of January 8th, Walt Disney Home Entertainment brings Tim Burton's Frankenweenie to Blu-ray. In 1984, the film began its existence as a short feature about the relationship between a boy genius and his recently deceased - and revived - dog. The short ...
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