It’s about time Tim Burton returned to his roots! All he had to do was, umm, return to his roots.
Keep in mind, this is a director coming off back-to-back misses that seemed right in his wheelhouse (“Dark Shadows” and “Alice in Wonderland”).
But Burton’s stop-motion animated revisiting of his 1984 short film “Frankenweenie” has everything I love about Burton. It’s weird, it’s dark, but it’s also got whimsy and heart.
Young Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan) is a socially awkward science geek whose best friend is his dog Sparky.
When Sparky is hit and killed by a car — sad, but tastefully handled offscreen — Victor attempts to resurrect Sparky through science.
The playfulness of this movie hearkens all the way back to Burton’s “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” — still my favorite of his early works — and I think this tops “Corpse Bride” and even “The Nightmare Before Christmas” as the best Burton-involved animated film.
There’s also a nice mix of funhouse-style scares — fun, jumpy stuff, nothing too intense for most kids. This actually makes for a pretty great Halloween season date movie, too.
“Frankenweenie” is gloriously shot in black-and-white, perfect for the throwback monster movie feel (although parents of hyperactive kids might want to know they won’t be getting a color bath).
There’s also great voice work, not only from Tahan in the lead. Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara play Victor’s parents — and various other characters. And Martin Landeau channels his “Ed Wood” Bela Lugosi as an eccentric science teacher.
Let’s hope Tim Burton’s resurrection continues to his next films!