So I finally got around to watching Frankenweenie. I wasn’t really inclined to see it, to be perfectly honest, but a friend of mine loaned me the DVD. It took me a while to get around to watching it, I don’t honestly watch a whole lot of TV but last night a thunderstorm knocked out the cable so it proved to be a good opportunity and I have to say, as much as I love Tim Burton and Danny Elfman, I wasn’t impressed.
To run it down, briefly, the movie is about a young Victor Frankenstein who suffers the unexpected loss of his dog, Sparky. Instead of dealing with the loss, he brings Sparky back to life. When his secret gets out, his classmates, eager to one-up him to win the science fair, resurrect a whole slew of creatures that unleash havoc on the town.
It’s a cute movie but, while it has a PG rating, it’s hardly a kid’s film. While Victor does have to deal with the death of his beloved Sparky, by bringing him back to life, he doesn’t ever really learn any important life lessons and quite frankly, who wants to take their children to a movie that’s going to make them have to explain Death?
The movie skims over Victor’s love for Sparky being the real reason he’s revived after the lightning animated his corpse, identifying it as “the first time” he did the science experiment “he really liked it” but the “second time” (when he’s blackmailed by E(dgar) Gore) he “just wanted to be done with it”.
When Sparky is first deceased, Victor is comforted by his parents, being told that “those we love never truly leave us, they live in our hearts forever”. If you were hoping to use this movie to help explain Death, or help a child cope with the loss of a beloved pet or family member, don’t bother.
At the end of the movie, Sparky is killed (again!), being trapped in a burning building while battling an evil Mr. Whiskers (cat)/bat monster created by one of Victor’s classmates. Instead of being unable to resurrect Sparky and actually having to face, and deal with, the loss, the townsfolk help jump-start Sparky and he comes back to life (again!) and everyone lives happily ever after.
Overall, while the movie is cute, and typically dark, it doesn’t really have any life lessons to teach, it doesn’t have any memorable or remarkable characters. There’s no real resolution for any of the monsters or characters who created them. Furthermore, while most of the monsters were created from dead creatures, who are subsequently destroyed, Mr. Whiskers *had* been alive, when a bolt of lightning caused him to somehow meld with a dead bat he was chewing on.
Why did the Mr. Whiskers monster have to be destroyed? Why couldn’t we un-splice him? Turning him back into a freakish cat and destroying the dead bat he was melded to?
There were so many life lessons that this movie could have potentially taught to children:
1. coping with loss of a loved one (Sparky’s death)
2. the power of love (Victor’s crying on Sparky’s body before he’s resurrected)
3. tolerance of different people (the townsfolk see Sparky as a monster and riot, chasing him into the windmill where he’s burned with the Mr. Whiskers monster, later help jump-start him after he helps save Elsa [ Victor’s classmate])
4. honesty (all Victor’s classmates BREAK INTO HIS HOUSE AND STEAL HIS LABORATORY to create a better living-dead and beat him in the science fair!!!!)
5. the value of hard work (I reiterate: all Victor’s classmates BREAK INTO HIS HOUSE AND STEAL HIS LABORATORY to create a better living-dead and beat him in the science fair!!!!)
But none of these things are addressed. Hell, none of the kids who created the monsters that terrorized the town even face consequences for it and the science fair is subsequently forgotten. Victor never has to face coping with Sparky’s loss, since the movie ends with Sparky being resurrected again.
The movie was really quite depressing and being produced in black and white didn’t help. As short as the movie is (only 87 mins), it was really quite hard to watch (it gave me a headache), and despite the “boy and his dog” story line, I didn’t really ever find myself relating to, or rooting for, any of the characters and I felt like some of the characters were just there as filler, but none of them, even main characters, aren’t developed past a certain point (ex. Elsa= damsel in distress, Toshiaki= smart Asian kid, Nassor= the jock), some of the characters don’t even have a name (aka “Weird Girl”)!
The movie had potential but it just wasn’t there. If you’ve seen the movie and enjoyed it, good on you, but for me, it was just awkward.