Tim Burton fans have had a rough time the last several years, but “Frankenweenie” is a return to form for the mischievous old macabre-meister — fitting, since it’s an expansion of a live-action short Burton made for Disney way back in 1984, before he was famous (and just before Disney fired him, allegedly because they didn’t like “Frankenweenie”).
Gorgeously shot in black-and-white with stop-motion animation, the new “Frankenweenie” is an homage to certain horror classics of yesteryear, with inventive young Victor (voice of Charlie Tahan) using electricity to resurrect his beloved dog, Sparky, after a tragic car accident. Though Victor is filling the role of mad scientist, most of the kids in town are Goth-looking weirdos, spacey girls with pin-point eyeballs, or hunchbacked freaks, as befits the populace of a Burtonville. (The girl with prophetic dreams and her cat who looks just like her are my favorites.) Burton revels in the morbid jokes inherent in the situation, the way kids revel in haunted houses in the month of October; don’t be surprised if everyone you know under the age of 13 declares this their new favorite Halloween film. There are also some terrific, sly laughs surrounding Mr. Rzykruski (voice of Martin Landau), Victor’s serious Eastern European science teacher, who confronts the townspeople’s fear of science. As painstakingly crafted as the whole thing is, clearly a labor of love for Burton and his massive team of artists, the story feels padded, unable to sustain itself to feature length. The pro-imagination, pro-science, and pro-dog messages are awfully heartwarming, though, even for the coldest, deadest of hearts.
B (1 hr., 27 min.; )